Around 200 See Power of Soil Health on Display at MSHS

SFA Executive Director John Mesko (left) leads a Q&A session with Dr. Allen Williams (center) and Gabe Brown at the 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit on Feb. 18 in Alexandria, Minn.

SFA Executive Director John Mesko (left) leads a Q&A session with Dr. Allen Williams (center) and Gabe Brown at the 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit on Feb. 18 in Alexandria, Minn.

The 2015 Midwest Soil Health Summit showed SFA’s strengths as a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization – nearly 200 farmers had the chance to talk one-on-one with some of the world’s leading experts on soil health.

MSHS_2colorBoth informational and inspirational, the presentations from the likes of Dr. Allen Williams and Gabe Brown (shown above with SFA’s John Mesko), Jerry Doan, Dr. Wendy Taheri, Kent Solberg, Dr. Michael Lehman and Ian Cunningham prove that soil health not only has the potential to transform agriculture in this country, it has both the potential to transform it soon and to provide immense benefit to farmers who use these methods.

The importance of a Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization like SFA was clear when examples were given that both Allen and Gabe – two incredibly innovative, successful farmers – have neighbors who still refuse to adopt soil building farm practices. When world-famous farmers like these still face skepticism, it’s no wonder SFA members see the value of networking with others in their area for camaraderie and wisdom.

Attendance at the 2015 MSHS was up nearly 50 percent, and the crowd was encouragingly diverse – as one attendee remarked, it was “nice to see a long line at the women’s restroom.” SFA is an inclusive, family-like organization, and we are thrilled to see farmers and farm families of all types attending our events.

Thanks to all who came, and we are excited to begin planning the 2016 version. Look for an announcement of 2016 dates coming soon.

To download Dr. Allen Williams’ presentation and for other resources, visit our MSHS homepage. 

On Display at 2015 Annual Conference: 25 Years of SFA’s Vibrancy

SFA AC 2015 Kent teaches

SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist Kent Solberg leads the Fencing session at the 2015 SFA Annual Conference on Feb. 14 at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

It was a cold Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14, 2015, but the energy inside the College of Saint Benedict easily lifted the spirits of the over 250 attendees at the vibrant SFA Annual Conference.

Snapshots from the day illustrate just how diverse an organization SFA has become:

  • Josh Reinitz and Daniel Zetah’s idea-packed session on salvaging and repurposing farm equipment and buildings was innovative, pointed and, at times, hilarious.
  • John Mesko’s opening remarks about SFA’s 25-year anniversary prove not just how much SFA and its members have accomplished, but how optimistic we are for our future and our role in regenerating the land in the Upper Midwest and beyond. Click here to download John’s opening presentation slides.
  • Budding-FarmersLed by Monica Irwin, the Budding Farmers program, which drew nearly 20 children to the conference, went home with abundant art they had created as well as seeds from their visit to the seed swap.
  • Mary Jane Miller’s braised beef was, in the words of Kelsey Wulf, “out-of-this-world.”
  • Deep Winter Greenhouses drew a crowd to Paradox Farm on Feb. 13 for our sold-out “combo pack” session, which was followed by two DWG-related sessions on Feb. 14 at St. Ben’s that combined Minnesota Deep Winter experts like Carol Ford, Sue Wika and Ryan Pesch.

And, of course, we debuted our popular “Back End of a Cow” t-shirts, only a handful of which remain. That’s what makes SFA great – we combine the most innovative thinkers and sustainable ag experts, but we’re not above making a good manure reference on a t-shirt.

Photos from the Conference coming soon here and on our Facebook page.

Look for an announcement regarding the 2016 SFA Annual Conference soon.

KCIM Webinar, ‘Strategies for Implementing Cover Crops,’ Slated for March 6

KCIM Keep Cattle in Minnesota“Strategies for Implementing Cover Crops,” a SFA Keep Cattle in Minnesota webinar led by Livestock & Grazing Specialist Kent Solberg, is scheduled for 1-2:30 p.m. March 6. The webinar is free and open to all.

Cover crops are a powerful tool farmers can use to improve soil health. Cover crops can play a key role in implementing soil health principles. Specifically, cover crops aid in keeping soil covered, adding diversity to the rotation, keep a living root in the soil, and serve as the “bridge” between cropping systems and integration of livestock.

In the webinar, Kent will review the principles of building soil health, integration of cover crops and real world examples of how adding cover crops to your farm can move you toward productivity and profitability.

This webinar is the second in a series of KCIM webinars SFA has planned. Others are slated for April 3 and Nov. 6; keep watching SFA Connect for details about all upcoming KCIM webinars and programming.

Click here to sign up. For more information, visit our Keep Cattle in Minnesota homepage

Midwest Soil Health Summit Schedule Released

The schedule is set for this year’s expanded Midwest Soil Health Summit, and we’ve added additional programming on the conference’s first day to buttress a second day that’s chock-full of expert soil health programming.

Midwest Soil Health Summit keynote speaker Gabe Brown of Brown's Ranch spent much of the 2014 conference engaged in farmer-to-farmer networking with attendees.

Midwest Soil Health Summit keynote speaker Gabe Brown of Brown’s Ranch spent much of the 2014 conference engaged in farmer-to-farmer networking with attendees.

New learning and networking opportunities for the Summit’s first day include a session led by SFA Executive Director John Mesko on Soil Health Basics as well as an International Roundtable. Other programming the first day includes our popular social time with buffet and cash bar, the return of “Gab With Gabe,” a film screening, and more.

Our impromptu discussion tables were such a hit last year, they’re returning as well. Look for discussion tables throughout the day Feb. 19 featuring Summit experts, or suggest one you’d like to see – if you’re a dairy producer, maybe you want to network with other dairy producers; if you’re from North Dakota, maybe you would like to chat with others in your region. Discussion tables are the perfect format. Make a suggestion to gro.n1425088481m-afs1425088481@yrre1425088481j1425088481 or talk to an SFA staffer at the Summit and we’ll do our best to make it work.

Here’s the schedule, and don’t forget to register ASAP as we are expecting a sellout – SFA members save $50 on registration. Additionally, there are a couple of spots open for “Gab With Gabe,” our limited-ticket reception with Gabe Brown. Register for that here – note that this is separate from the general MSHS registration.

Wed., Feb. 18

  • 1 p.m. – Registration Opens
  • 1 p.m. – Soil Health Basics with John Mesko
  • 2:30 p.m. – International Round Table
  • 4 p.m. – Special “Gab With Gabe” networking event with Gabe Brown. To attend you must purchase the additional “Gab With Gabe” ticket.
  • 6 p.m. – Social Time begins with cash bar, heavy appetizer buffet, welcome, interview of Gabe Brown and Dr. Allen Williams by John Mesko, “Soil Carbon Cowboys” film screening, and more
Dr. Allen Williams

Dr. Allen Williams

Thurs., Feb. 19

  • 7 a.m. – Registration opens
  • 8 a.m. – Opening Plenary Session: Welcome and introduction by John Mesko, VIP Welcome, Housekeeping with Jerry Ford
  • 8:15 a.m. – Dr. Allen Williams
  • 9:35 a.m. – Jerry Doan
  • 10:30 a.m. – Discussion Tables: Allen Williams, Jerry Doan, Gabe Brown
  • 11 a.m. – Ian Cunningham
  • 11:45 a.m. – LUNCH: Buffet and discussion tables with Ian Cunningham and Gabe Brown
  • 1 p.m. – Dr. Wendy Taheri, “Understanding the Role of Diversity in Agricultural Ecosystems”
  • 1:45 p.m. – Dr. Michael Lehman
  • 2:30 p.m. – Discussion Tables: Wendy Taheri, Mike Lehman
  • 3 p.m. – Kent Solberg
  • 3:50 p.m. – Keynote: Gabe Brown
  • 5:15 p.m. – Conference ends

MSHS Returns With Gabe Brown, Dr. Allen Williams, Jerry Doan & more

Tickets are moving fast for SFA’s second annual Midwest Soil Health Summit, featuring Gabe Brown, set for Feb. 18-19, 2015, at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Minn.

MSHS attendees crowd the Gabe Brown Discussion Table at the 2014 event. Each presenter at the Summit held a successive gathering at the Discussion Tables, allowing for more intimate conversation as well as farmer networking.

MSHS attendees crowd the Gabe Brown Discussion Table at the 2014 event. Each presenter at the Summit held a successive gathering at the Discussion Tables, allowing for more intimate conversation as well as farmer networking.

The MSHS, newly expanded for 2015, also will feature Dr. Allen Williams, a champion of the grass-fed beef industry.

To learn more and register, click here.

Sponsors and Exhibitors: Click here to download the 2015 MSHS Exhibitor Application

Brown, the keynote speaker, owns Brown’s Ranch in Burleigh County, N.D., and is a pioneer in diverse cover cropping who has used no-till techniques for two decades. At the 2015 MSHS, Gabe will discuss soil health programming for beginners as well as lead a separate program for advanced farmers – if you attended the previous MSHS, rest assured this year’s version will include plenty of fresh information from Gabe.

Dr. Allen Williams

Dr. Allen Williams

We are also proud to welcome Dr. Williams, a champion of the grass-fed beef industry as well as a leader in cutting edge grazing methodology. A co-project leader at the Pasture Project, Dr. Williams is also founding partner and president of Livestock Management Consultants, a founding partner of Grass Fed Beef and chairman of Association of Family Farms.

The exact schedule will be online soon; note that the event begins at 1 p.m. Feb. 18 with “Soil Science Basics” led by John Mesko.

Last year’s MSHS was a sellout; register now to guarantee your spot. Walk-up registration will be dependent on pre-registration numbers, and SFA members receive a $50 registration discount.

Also scheduled to appear:

  • Jerry Doan, farmer from Black Leg Ranch in Burleigh County, N.D., a multi-generational family farm that emphasizes soil health. To read a profile of the Doans, click here.
  • Dr. Michael Lehman, a research microbiologist whose studies include evaluating soil microbiological responses to agricultural management practices.
  • Dr. Wendy Taheri, a research microbiologist who specializes in the study of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). To view a recent SFA soil health webinar featuring Drs. Lehman and Taheri, click here.
  • Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock & Grazing Specialist, will discuss Designing Complex Cover Crop Blends
  • John Mesko, SFA Executive Director, will lead a bonus program on Soil Science Basics
  • Ian Cunningham, a cow-calf producer and veteran cover cropper from Pipestone County, Minn.

Also returning this year is our exclusive “Gab With Gabe” networking session from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 18, 2015, with Gabe Brown. ONLY A HANDFUL OF TICKETS REMAIN at $50 each for this chance to network one-on-one with a soil health pioneer. You must register for the MSHS separately – this ticket will ONLY get you into “Gab With Gabe.” Click here to register for “Gab With Gabe.”

Need a room? Arrowwood Resort is a family friendly location with ice fishing, cross country ski trails, snowmobiling, ice skating, broomball, and more. For more information or to reserve a room at the special MSHS rate of $99, call the resort at 320.762.1124.