Women impacting conservation history on South Dakota's landscape

Natural Resources Conservation Service
Farm Forum

HURON, S.D. — In South Dakota, women across the state have taken the initiative to implement science-based soil health practices on their operations. They have stepped into leadership roles to improve land management and educate their local communities. Women have innovated, not only through their own practices and implementations, but also as role models for the next generation of conservation leaders. For this Women’s History Month, the NRCS celebrates stories of overcoming hardship, education, perseverance, and success. We recognize the direct lasting impacts women are making to history on the state’s landscape.

Cultivating community and building connections by sharing practical knowledge is one of the great attributes of many SD women in conservation. The SD Voices for Soil Health Mentor Network provides easy access for both new and experienced conservationists alike to meet one-on-one and learn. Female mentorship is an important voice in the conservation conversation.

Donna Adrian has been a Master Gardener since 1997 and volunteers her time and expertise to the Keya Wakpala Community Garden on the Rosebud Reservation. The South Dakota NRCS featured her home operation as a 2019 Profile in Soil Health and attributes her success to using soil health methods, mulch, and no-till. See Donna’s story at www.bit.ly/AdrianSoilHealthProfile.

  • Jeannie Franceus leads by example, practicing rotational grazing on her operation and focusing on restoring native grasses in Wessington Springs, S.D. Funding through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program assisted with five new watering facilities to aid her in rotational grazing and conservation. Jeannie explains, “There is a tendency to think it is wasteful not to graze pastures all the way down, but the South Dakota Grassland Coalition and partners taught me that the grass you leave behind is mulch for the soil and results in more grass next year. It really does!” See Jeannie’s story at
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  • Mimi Hillenbrand has been running the 777 Ranch, raising bison for her family for 15 years. Her family began holistic management in the 1980s. “It wasn’t just about raising bison and being profitable. It was about taking care of the wildlife, plants, soil, and the people who work here, and the communities nearby. Really, the Bison are just part of my team.” See Mimi’s story at
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Tracy Rosenberg is a restoration grass farmer on her 1,000-acre native prairie range in Grant County, S.D. Tracy works with a permanent grassland easement-land that cannot be utilized for crop production. Tracy explains “Grasslands are not the poor lands; this is an ecosystem that is by far the most important ecosystem we have in North America. And yet it is disappearing at extraordinary rates, equal to the rain forest.” See Tracy’s story at www.bit.ly/TracyRosenberg.

These are a few of the many women volunteers among the diverse SD Voices for Soil Health Mentor Network, a collaborative project between the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, South Dakota Conservation Districts, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, and South Dakota NRCS. To learn more about the network or find a mentor, contact Tami.Burmeister@usda.gov to receive a digital or hardcopy of the network directory. Do you practice soil health and are interested in joining the network as a mentor? We need your voice! Send a request to the same e-mail address.