Conventional experience helped farmer achieve ‘liberation’ in practical sustainability
By Kassie Brown • SFA Communications Intern
For the past 10 years, Scott Haase, a sixth-generation farmer from Blue Earth, Minn., has worked alongside his father and brother at Haase Family Farms, which predominantly produces corn and soybeans using conventional methods.
In addition, Scott also farms his 10-acre homestead, Blue Dirt Farm, where he raises pastured and organic heritage breed hogs, foraging poultry and waterfowl, perennial crops, and just this past year brought 100 percent grass-fed beef to his local market. This unique experience and perspective has led to Haase being added to the speaking slate for the Sustainable Farming Association’s upcoming Midwest Soil Health Summit, set for Feb. 15-16, 2017, in Fergus Falls, Minn.
Like many farmers, Haase was tilling the soil atop a tractor before he even learned to drive a car. Unlike most, however, Haase grew up with an indefinable sense of concern about this sort of soil cultivation. He attended Minnesota State University-Mankato, double majoring to earn a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Manufacturing, Engineering, and Technology as well as a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Painting and Ceramic Sculptures. During that time and in the years that followed his 2004 graduation, Scott searched for solutions to a vague sense of unease he felt while tilling the land. And it wasn’t until he started growing and cooking his own food that farming as an act of liberation and rejuvenation started to solve some of those qualms.
Always fascinated with natural processes and the patterns alive in nature, Haase discovered the permaculture methods of Bill Mollison and other teachers of natural systems farming. He has worked to advance many permaculture design methods at Blue Dirt Farm and is always searching for new regenerative ways to grow healthy food that is good for both people and the land. In recent years, Haase said he has been overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available to farmers looking to make sustainable changes, and he values the guidance, technical support, and networking opportunities at the Midwest Soil Health Summit and other SFA gatherings where farmers can dig into the finer points of conservation and sustainability while also receiving practical, scientifically valid information.
Growing up alongside the Blue Earth River, Scott has had ample time to witness the connection between land use and water quality and has seen the impact land use in his region has had on the river, which is one of the most ecologically compromised in Minnesota. The Blue Earth is a tributary of the Minnesota River, which in turn runs on to the Mississippi – contributing to its well-documented fertilizer and topsoil output that has created dangerously hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. Haase senses the implications of being a farmer so closely tied to an ecological disaster of this magnitude and is an active voice within his community advocating for more sustainable practices. A strong believer in the resiliency of the soil, Scott is a champion of no-till farming, inter-seeding diverse cover crops, and responsibly integrating livestock into crop rotations.
An island within a sea of mono-cropped corn and soy, Blue Dirt Farm is well on its way to becoming an exemplary model of 21st Century sustainability. Complete with a passive solar home of whole timbers, Haase has worked very diligently to adopt a number of regenerative practices on his diversified holding. Yet, he knows that this relatively small site will not change the face of modern agriculture and is working on various experimental projects on the larger Haase family farm. Currently, Haase is running a 70-acre test plot with The Pasture Project. Despite fears of a complete takeover by the dreaded glyphosate-resistant water hemp, Haase has documented a decidedly equal to slightly greater yield in his cover-cropped test plot even with its restricted herbicide use. Experiments are ongoing, but Haase is hopeful and very motivated by the number of farmers in his own community who are taking on similar ventures.
Change happens slowly, but Scott says proven results and successful experiments will make it happen. He is eager to continue working with organizations like SFA and The Pasture Project to make ongoing progress toward large-scale regenerative agriculture on his own family’s farm and the farms of many others.
Haase says that it is local gatherings of like-minded farmers, such as the Midwest Soil Health Summit, where he finds renewed inspiration and a recharging of batteries, so to speak, to carry on the hard – and sometimes lonely – work of being “a weirdo eccentric” always advocating for wise land use against the conventional grain.