MN Farmers to Lead ‘Farm Finances & Soil Health’ Workshop in SE MN on Jan. 29 & NE Iowa on Jan. 30

ELGIN, Minn. — A Land Stewardship Project (LSP) workshop called, “Cover Crops, No-Till & Grazing: Evaluating the Economics and First Steps to Improving Soil Health” will be held Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Peace United Methodist Church between Plainview and Elgin. Co-sponsored by the Wabasha County Soil and Water Conservation District, the workshop will feature presentations by southwestern Minnesota farmers Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz, along with southeastern Minnesota farmers Tom Cotter and Myron Sylling. The cost is $15 per person ($10 for an additional farm partner, and $30 per family), which includes a lunch featuring local foods. To register by Jan. 27, contact LSP’s Liana Nichols at 507-523-3366 or via e-mail.

DIRECTIONS: The Peace United Methodist Church is located at 52497 275th Ave., Elgin, MN 55932. From U.S. Highway 14, turn north onto MN-42 just west of Eyota. Follow MN-42 for 20 miles into Elgin. Continue on MN-42 for two miles northeast out of Elgin and then turn south on 275th Ave. The church is ¼ mile down on your right.

This workshop will also be offered in Ridgeway, Iowa (10 miles west of Decorah), on Jan. 30, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Co-sponsored by the Winnesheik Soil and Water Conservation District, this workshop will include a northeast Iowa farm panel featuring farmers Mark and Ethan Imoehl, Jerome Fulsaas, Parker Beard, and John Lubke.

Between the testimonials of pioneering farmers like Gabe Brown and the media buzz and new research around the benefits of soil health as it relates to farm profitability, area farmers are looking to take steps to build soil through practices like no-till, cover cropping, and rotational grazing. Yet, new practices bring their share of challenges, successes and even failures. The farmers presenting at the Jan. 29 workshop will address this learning curve with stories from their own operations.

In their 20 years of farming in Redwood County, the Breitkreutzes have made great strides toward regenerating their soils by practicing no-till row cropping and managed rotational grazing, as well as diversified cover cropping. They believe that soil health and regenerative agriculture should not be considered an expense — everything they do on their land has an economic return plus a soil health benefit.

Their presentation will be followed up by a group discussion and presentations from Cotter and Sylling on their own experiences with soil building methods such as cover cropping, reduced tillage and rotational grazing. Cotter, from Austin, raises no-till and strip-till conventional corn and soybeans, as well as sweet corn and peas, and is transitioning some land to organic. His family also raises beef cattle and they incorporate practices such as cover crop grazing, interseeding covers into corn, and growing a warm season cover crop. Sylling, who farms near Spring Grove, is a long-time cash grain producer who has been no-tilling for 20 years and using cover crops intensively for the past seven years.

“The best thing that Grant and Dawn bring to the soil health conversation is their experience with practical implementation of good soil building methods,” said Mike Seifert, a no-till crop farmer from Jordan, Minn. “As a farmer who has read about and studied the principles of soil health, my biggest questions revolve around how to implement those principles in a realistic way on my own farm. That's where Grant and Dawn come in. They've been experimenting with soil health methods for years, and they talk about those experiences in a way that is honest, direct and relevant to farmers who want to get started down the road to soil health on the right foot.”