AGRICULTURE

SFA’s Midwest Soil Health Summit set for Feb. 19-20

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Farm Forum

Gabe Brown leads experts appearing at SFA’s Midwest Soil Health Summit

Led by internationally renowned soil health expert Gabe Brown, the Sustainable Farming Association’s newest conference, the Midwest Soil Health Summit, will convene some of the most innovative farmers and researchers in the Upper Midwest.

The conference, to be held Feb. 19-20, 2014, at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Minn., will include two days of farmer-to-farmer networking, speakers, panel discussions and breakout sessions – all geared at improving soil health in farming systems of all types.

Brown is a pioneer in diverse cover cropping, having used no-till techniques for two decades at his Brown’s Ranch in Burleigh County, N.D. His family ranch encompasses 5,400 acres, all managed sustainably and with the goal of building ideal soil health conditions. His pesticide-free cover and companion crop system has allowed the Browns to reduce their use of commercial fertilizer by over 90 percent and the use of herbicides by over 75 percent as well as increase production and profitability.

Following Brown’s address will be a presentation by Richard Bieber, a producer from South Dakota who has been practicing no-till for 27 years and cover cropping for over a decade. Bieber says, “When it comes to soil health, you are speaking directly to my passion.”

Other confirmed speakers include:

• Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock and Grazing Coordinator, who will be leading a session on designing and customizing cover crops.

• Wendy Taheri, Research Microbiologist with the North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, who will present on cover cropping and mycorrhizae in soils.

• Jay Fuhrer, District Conservationist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Bismarck, N.D., who will lead a session on how to make soil health principles work on your farm. “Jay feels his mission in life is to be part of the team that makes this happen. He is the glue that holds this stuff together,” said Solberg.

The first day, Feb. 19, will be focused on networking and start at 6 p.m. with snacks and a cocktail hour as well as a casual presentation by Brown.

Feb. 20 is a full day of programming and will include Brown’s keynote address, Bieber’s followup presentation, a producer panel, a series of breakout networking sessions, opportunities to interact one-on-one with producers and researchers, and more. There will be a slate of exhibitors as well.

“Soil health is the basis of agriculture, and agriculture is the basis of a free civilization,” Solberg said. “Planned grazing management, diverse crop rotations, no-till equipment, and complex cover crops are tools that can help us move toward soil health. The land has the ability to heal itself when we provide the chance.”

Cost is $100 for current SFA members and $150 for non-members. For questions on SFA membership, contact SFA Communications Coordinator Jason Walker at jason@sfa-mn.org.

Arrowwood Resort is a family-friendly location with an indoor water park, ice fishing, cross country ski trails, snowmobiling, ice skating, broomball, and more. For more information or to reserve a room, call the resort at 320.762.1124.