By Jason Walker • SFA Communications and Membership Coordinator
Soil health is a red-hot topic for farmers, and our sold-out Midwest Soil Health Summit last week was brimming with excitement, knowledge, energy, and farmer networking.
Farmers came from Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Saskatchewan, and even Australia to hear soil health pioneers Gabe Brown and Richard Bieber as well as soil research expert Wendy Taheri, SFA’s own expert Kent Solberg, Burleigh County’s Jay Fuhrer, and Ryan Stockwell of the National Wildlife Federation, as well as local producers Carmen Fernholz, Larry Heitkamp and Dan Middendorf.
The Summit kicked off Feb. 19 with the sold-out “Gab with Gabe” reception, where ten ticket-holders were treated to an intimate audience with Gabe Brown as well as SFA’s John Mesko and some fine cheese from SFA member Deb Pikovsky’s Star Thrower Farm.
The general sessions of the Summit began that evening with dinner and a casual conversation with John and Gabe. Rick Bieber was there, too, joining the conversation, and already it was evident that unique perspectives and cutting-edge soil health techniques were in abundance.
On snowy, icy Feb. 20, the Summit’s full day, a capacity-busting crowd of 140 jammed Arrowwood Resort, and it was pretty cool the way Gabe, Richard, and the rest of the Summit slate were so willing to share their knowledge and experience – even offering their personal contact information to Summit-goers for future questions and advice.
Especially cool was the session Kent Solberg led on cover cropping. Gabe, Richard and Wendy were in the audience, as well as producer panel member Carmen Fernholz, and each jumped in to Kent’s presentation when relevant to offer advice and perspective. It was an inspirational session jam-packed with knowledge that no one in attendance will ever forget.
I heard lots of positive feedback regarding the Summit, but the thing I heard the most was “You should do this again.” That’s about the best thing to hear when putting on a first-ever event, isn’t it?
Special thanks go out to SFA’s Jerry Ford, who did the most groundwork making sure the event went off without a hitch, as well as SFA’s Sustainability Conference interns Kelsey Wulf, Paul Stewart, Whitney Oxendahl and Matt Andrews.