Feb. Workshops in SE MN to Focus on Building Soil Health in the Upper Midwest

National Leaders & Local Farmers to Present in Lewiston & Plainview

LEWISTON, Minn. — The Land Stewardship Project is bringing some of the nation’s leading names in soil health and cover cropping to southeastern Minnesota during a pair of February meetings. These events, which will also include local farmers discussing their experiences with building soil health, are being held Feb. 4 in Plainview Minn., and Feb. 11 in Lewiston. The cost is $10 per person (the fee covers a meal); additional family members and students are $5. Please register at least two days in advance. For more information or to register, contact LSP’s Doug Nopar at 507-523-3366 or dnopar@landstewardshipproject.org.

The Feb. 4 meeting, which will be held from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the American Legion Hall (215 3rd St. SW) in Plainview, will feature Jay Fuhrer of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Fuhrer and his team in Burleigh County, N. Dak., are recognized internationally for their work to build soil health utilizing innovative farming methods. Farmers, conservationists and scientists have teamed up in that county to put in place integrated crop and livestock systems that are profitable, practical and environmentally sound.

Kelley O’Neill, a Rushford, Minn., crop and livestock farmer who has seen Fuhrer speak, said he provided the perfect balance of practical information and passion for building health soil.

“While some get bogged down in complicated details, Jay does not,” said O’Neill. “He has a very accessible style, which is straightforward and unusually effective. He’s really quite inspiring.”

The Feb. 11 meeting, which is being held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Church of the Brethren, two miles southeast of Lewiston (25335 County Road 25), will feature Sarah Carlson, Barry Fisher and Jack Boyer.

Carlson is the Midwest Cover Crops Coordinator for Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI), where she leads the On-farm Research and Cover Cropping Initiative. In recent years, PFI has made major strides in getting cover cropping integrated into that state’s corn and soybean systems utilizing a combination of farmer-to-farmer education, cost-share programs and on-farm research.

Fisher is an NRCS soil health expert based in Indiana. Indiana’s Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative, which Fisher helped launch, has become a model for using teams consisting of farmers, input suppliers, government agencies and scientists to establish and maintain soil-building practices like cover cropping. Indiana currently has over one millions acres of land in cover crops, far more than any other Corn Belt state. Fisher was recently named to head up the NRCS’s soil health initiative for the 10-state Midwest region, which includes Minnesota.

“Given her experience, Carlson may know more than anyone else in the Upper Midwest about how to get cover cropping established on farms,” said Nopar, who is heading up a new LSP soil health initiative in Minnesota. “And Fisher has developed an incredible network for making cover cropping a practical and economically viable method for building soil’s resiliency.”

Boyer raises corn and soybeans in Iowa's northern Tama and southern Grundy counties, and is well-known for his use of cover cropping to improve soil health. He was recently named a “Soil Health Champion” by the National Association of Conservation Districts for sharing his experiences with cover crops and promoting soil health.

Both meetings will feature a panel consisting of southeastern Minnesota farmers who are utilizing cover crops and other methods to build soil health. Panelists will include:

  • Jim Purfeerst, Faribault, Minn, row crop farmer, speaking on inter-seeding multi-species cover crops into standing corn in June.
  • Kaleb Anderson, Goodhue, Minn., beef, pasture, hay and row crop farmer, speaking on using multi-species cover crop “cocktails” to build soil organic matter, as well as for strip grazing and late summer and fall forage production.
  • Curt Tvedt, retired Byron, Minn., dairy farmer, speaking on raising forage and cover crops, and planting soybeans into standing winter rye in late spring.
  • Jeff Gillespie, Fountain, Minn., beef, hay and crop farmer, speaking on double cropping forage and multi-species cover crops to boost nitrogen and soil fertility for next year’s corn crop.
  • Myron Sylling, Spring Grove, Minn., row crop farmer, speaking on no-till drilling cover crops after corn and soybeans.
  • Rory Beyer, Rollingstone, Minn., dairy and beef farmer, speaking on building soil organic matter and breaking weed cycles with cover crops, as well as planting cover crop cocktails to extend the grazing season.

There will also be an opportunity for participants in the February meetings to provide input into what federal farm policy barriers exist when it comes to building soil health and what conservation reforms are needed in the next Farm Bill.