Group presents awards at 2021 Soil Health Conference

South Dakota Soil Health Coalition
Farm Forum

PIERRE, S.D. - The virtual 2021 Soil Health Conference on Jan. 6-7 offered more than 400 attendees the chance to hear conservation advice and encouragement from a lineup of soil health experts and innovators:

  • World Food Prize Winner Dr. Rattan Lal spoke about the importance of soil carbon, the role it plays in our lives and the benefits of sequestering it in the soil.
  • Oklahoma farmer and rancher Jimmy Emmons gave advice on how to reduce tillage and implement good soil health practices.
  • Iowa farmer and equipment innovator Loran Steinlage talked about the benefits of interseeding cover crops.
  • Nebraska agronomist and author Dale Strickler explained how to build drought-resistant soil.
  • Jorgensen Land and Cattle CEO Nick Jorgensen of Ideal, S.D., spoke about using virtual fence collars in livestock for ease of grazing management.
  • Montana State University Billings Director of Student Health Services Darla Tyler McSherry spoke on the topic of how to help agricultural producers who are struggling with stress.
  • Participants also heard a summary of the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition’s 2020 research trials on wide-row corn interseeded with cover crops. A summary of SDSHC’s 2020 research trials can be found at

    In addition to these presentations, conference attendees also got a chance to pose their questions to panels of producers, including the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition’s board of directors. The quality of the questions asked indicated this year’s conference had an engaged audience committed to learning more about soil health practices.

    Annual awards

    In 2019, the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition created the Legacy Award in memory of Al Miron of Crooks, S.D., one of the founding members of the coalition and a shining example of a conservationist. During this year’s SDHSHC annual meeting, Jim and Carol Faulstich of Highmore, S.D., were presented with the 2021 Legacy Award for their long and tireless devotion to promoting conservation practices.

    “I’ve known Jim for about 15 years,” SDSHC board member Doug Sieck said. “I would be hard pressed to find someone in the list of people that I know or have been around that have done more, that have given more of their personal time and effort in the interest of enhancing conservation and the stewardship of the soil, the grasslands, the wildlife, and the environment in general.”

    “There’s a lot of reasons why this is a very special award and greatly appreciated,” Jim Faulstich said. “It’s special to be associated with this group of people, so my hat’s off to everything, and I can’t say thank you enough for this award.”

    The SDSHC’s board of directors also presented longtime Dakota Farmer editor Lon Tonneson with the 2021 Friend of Soil Health Award for his coverage of soil health and agriculture. Speaking of his recent retirement and all the trends he had seen over the course of his career, Tonneson said, “I wish I had a front-row seat on what the next big thing is going to be in agriculture. I got a feeling it’s probably going to come from groups like yours, what you’re doing — intercropping, companion cropping, just a whole host of things.”

    New board member

    Three seats on the SDSHC’s board of directors were up for election during the annual meeting. Dennis Hoyle and Doug Sieck were re-elected to their seats. Bryan Jorgensen declined to run for his seat again, and Van Mansheim, a producer from Colome, S.D., was elected to fill the vacant spot.

    Mansheim operates ManBull Farming LLC with his brother Kirk Mansheim and nephew Heath Bullington. Together they custom graze cattle and grow corn, winter wheat, oats, soybeans and alfalfa.

    “I’m honored to be on this board,” Mansheim said. “I’ve had some great mentors out of this group, and I look forward to continuing the mission of the group and helping other producers with their journeys.”

    Contest winners

    The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition conducted student essay and photo contests in conjunction with the Soil Health Conference. First-place winners in each contest will receive $400 cash scholarships, and second-place winners will receive $200 cash scholarships.

    Lorie Steiner, a student at Lake Area Technical College, won first place with her essay comparing soil to a painter’s canvas. Lynn Foster, a student at Brookings High School, won second place for an essay explaining the importance of reducing tillage.

    Megan Stiefvater, a student at McCook Central High School, won first place in the student photo contest with her photo of a milpa garden, and Ella Stiefvater, a homeschooled student in Salem, S.D., won second place with her photo of a rotational field currently growing grass for grazing.

    The winning entries in the student contests can be viewed at

    SDSHC also conducted an additional photo contest for conference attendees. Steve Sigdestad won a $200 gift card for his photo of corn planted on 60-inch rows and broadcast seeded with an 8-species cover crop mix.

    The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition thanks all speakers, panelists, and attendees for making this year’s virtual conference a success. The coalition also thanks the following sponsors for their support of the 2021 Soil Health Conference: Ducks Unlimited, Inc., U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service South Dakota, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, Agassiz Seed and Supply, James River Water Development District, AGVISE Laboratories, Millborn Seeds, Ward Laboratories, Grossenburg Implement Inc., Green Cover Seed, Wild Dutchman Sunflower Seeds, Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels, South Dakota Farmers Union, Soil Health Partnership, Organic Farm Team, Pheasants Forever, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, Working Cows, South Dakota State University and Cattle Business Weekly.

    For more information about the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition and its events, visit