Dirt Rich
31: Managing Spring Grazing

31: Managing Spring Grazing

May 26, 2021

When is the best time to turn the cows out? Kent Solberg and Jared Luhman dig into this decision that sets you up for the rest of the grazing season. It can be awful tempting to get started as soon as we see green, but Kent illustrates how letting the pasture mature a bit more can extend the grazing season by one to two months.

Waiting for the third leaf stage, starting in a new paddock each spring, increasing plant diversity, and grazing about 30-50% of the plant height are all beneficial towards animal performance and forage production in the long term. Kent and Jared also discuss some tips for management once you start your grazing season. Of course, it always depends on the context of the land and your goals. This is adaptive management, after all. Listen in for more sage advice from SFA’s resident grazing expert!

 

More soil health and grazing resources are also available on the SFA website.
Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box.

Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead
Kent Solberg, SFA Senior Technical Advisor; Seven Pines Farm & Fence (Verndale)

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.

30: Spring Break

30: Spring Break

May 12, 2021

We’re thirty episodes in, and Dirt Rich is nearly one year old! To celebrate, my co-host Jared Luhman and I (Katie Feterl) would love to hear from our listeners and hand out some sweet SFA swag. To be entered to win an SFA hat (snap-back or knit, winner’s choice), simply post your favorite Dirt Rich episode to Facebook or Twitter, tell us why you like it, and tell us what you’d like to hear more about! We’ll use your feedback to inform our upcoming episodes. Don’t forget to tag us so that we see it. We’re @SFA.MN on Facebook, and @sfamn on Twitter.

Thank you for listening! It's been a delight to bring these conversations on food and farming to you. Look out for a new one on May 26. 

 

Jared Luhman - Soil Health Lead, SFA

Katie Feterl - Communications Director, SFA

 

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

29: From “Conventional” to Resilient

29: From “Conventional” to Resilient

April 28, 2021

When Jon Stevens first tried no-till, it wasn’t with soil health in mind. One “notoriously horrible spring” left it as the only option to get seed in the ground in 2014. More harsh weather conditions followed, and by the end of the season Jon’s neighbors were very unhappy with their yields, but Jon had made it through alright. He’d even noticed some labor savings. 

So he continued to dabble in no-till. The next season he implemented some strip-till, and as he says, “boy, that lit the ground on fire. That strip-till took care of a lot of questionable spots...immediately we saw a drastic reduction of runoff.” After hearing some buzz about cover crops, he decided to dabble a bit in that too. He was discouraged by how little came up and overwintered at first, and figured he was probably too far up north for it to work, but he kept playing with it.

Over time, Jon started to notice a lot of little changes in the land, his labor, and his inputs adding up. His neighbors noticed too. After it rained, he didn’t have to wait long before he’d be able to get back in the field. “Wait a minute, I spent my whole childhood stuck in this spot, and now I’m driving through after a rain event and I’m barely making a little impression.” Something was really working, though Jon couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

He started to reach out online and to other farmers, and found networks of farmers who were making real moves with soil health. Between those communities and Jon’s willingness to run field experiments and try new things even when things seemed to fail at first, he was able to adapt the soil health principles into the context of his own farm. In 2003, his family had sold the dairy cows and focused on conventional corn and soybeans. Today, the livestock is back on the land and Maple Grove Farms is raising corn, beans, beef, hay, and small grains on 700 acres this season. Over time, he created a more diverse, adaptable, and resilient system--both financially and environmentally. “All these positive things, there’s no question in my mind: I don’t have to have side-by-sides anymore for myself because we can already see the end result. And the end result is that we don’t need to rely on the commercial side, that we’re going to get it. We’re gonna be the ‘Gabe Brown of Minnesota,’ along with many other farmers that are doing this stuff.”

 

Connect with Jon through his YouTube Channel or on his Soil Man forum.

More soil health resources are also available on the SFA website.

Want to get more involved and connect with fellow growers like Jon? Check out our event calendar for field days and webinars. You can also become a member of SFA and join a chapter in your region!

 

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box.

Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead
Jon Stevens, Maple Grove Farms, Rock Creek, Minnesota

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.

28: Saving Seed & Dancing Feet

28: Saving Seed & Dancing Feet

April 14, 2021

Today, Zachary Paige returns to Dirt Rich for a conversation on planning ahead for seed saving! You may remember him from Episode 21 at the top of the season.

Zach farms and operates North Circle Seeds in Vergas, Minnesota. North Circle Seeds is a newly certified organic seed company and collective committed to creating an ecologically diverse, equitable, and inclusive food system. As the Minnesota weather warms and gardeners and farmers are beginning to plant, Zach has some pointers for planning your space for seed saving and some vignettes of the process behind saving seeds for arugula, tomatoes, squash, and carrots.

Tune in for some recommendations on spacing, trellising, storage, equipment (‘smashing sticks,’ anyone?), and some colorful stories on the delicious foods and new connections that Zach has made because of saved seed.

 

Read about North Circle Seeds in The Land.

 

Want to get more involved and connect with fellow growers? You can become a member of SFA! There are 10 regional chapters across Minnesota.

 

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Drop us a line on our Virtual Comment Box.

 

Katie Feterl, SFA Communications Director
Zachary Paige, North Circle Seeds and SFA Member/Board Delegate

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association.

27: Home on the Tree-Range

27: Home on the Tree-Range

March 31, 2021

Tony Wells and a few partners are years into developing a regenerative and resilient poultry production system that provides opportunities for small farm profitability, which they’ve implemented on a 40-acre farm. The model attempts to replicate a forest habitat for poultry, incorporating perennials like hazelnuts and elderberries into a silvopasture system. Not only do the birds enjoy the shade and cover from aerial predators provided by the canopy, but the hazelnuts thrive on the nitrogen-rich chicken manure and offer an additional income stream. Tony says that after 5-7 years, the hazelnuts will make up 30-50% of the farm’s revenue.

Years before Tony joined the venture, his partners Wil Crombie and Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin were working on developing the system. Regi worked with many breeds, researching which would be most suitable for their design. The breed of chicken they’ve found success with? Aptly, Freedom Rangers.

The goal is for this model to be replicated on other farm sites. “It’s really, really hard for one farm to make it on their own and market their own products…it’s always going to work better if multiple farms can work together.” That’s why developing scalable business infrastructure has been a significant part of the venture. Rather than each individual farmer taking the chickens to the processor, the team picks up birds and transports them there. They also handle all the distribution and sales under the Tree-Range Chicken brand.

What started as a curiosity around food production and nutrition—“What goes into food?”—has blossomed into new friendships and partnerships, transplanting from Minneapolis to a Faribault farm, and a new career raising “tree-range” poultry for Tony. “I haven’t yet found anything I would rather put my energy towards at this point in my life.”

 

Tony and Reginaldo were interviewed for SFA’s new Silvopasture Case Study series, which was just published in March 2021.
Find more resources on Silvopasture on SFA’s resource page.

Tony's Poultry Processing survey

 

Tony Wells, Regeneration Farms, Cannon River Chapter delegate to the SFA Board of Directors
Jared Luhman, Soil Health Lead, Sustainable Farming Association, jared@sfa-mn.org

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

26: AMPed for Grazing!

26: AMPed for Grazing!

March 17, 2021

Over the years of establishing and fine-tuning their management systems, grazing has become absolutely key in both Jared Luhman’s and Doug Voss’ cattle and dairy operations. Beyond rotational grazing, Adaptive Multi-Paddock grazing (or AMP) has improved the ecology of their farms--not to mention saved the time, energy, and expense of hauling around feed and other off-farm inputs--by modeling their grazing systems after the natural movement of wildlife across landscapes. “There’s no substitute for what comes out the back of a cow or small ruminant,” Doug jokes.

Doug hasn’t used any off-farm inputs for years, and yet his yields continue to increase. The adaptive part of AMP is quintessential: not only is a successful grazing plan going to be unique and flexible to the context of a piece of land, but to the conditions that may come to pass during the season, be it a change in rainfall or a family wedding you need a couple days to travel to.

The number of variables to consider may be daunting, but as Doug reminds us, creating an adaptive grazing plan is more of a journey than a destination. In the interview, he shares some advice for those looking to start to graze as well as those looking to improve their management, covering fencing, watering systems, rest periods, and examples from Voss Farms.

The payoff is worth it. AMP grazing has brought Doug great peace of mind and more predictable income: “I have far fewer challenges where I’m not going to be productive or profitable on an acre of ground than I’ve ever had before.” 

Whether you own a herd or land, there are a lot of good resources to help you get livestock applied appropriately to your land:

Doug Voss, Grazing Lead, Sustainable Farming Association, doug@sfa-mn.org
Jared Luhman, Soil Health Lead, Sustainable Farming Association, jared@sfa-mn.org

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

25: Integrative Nutrition with Sara Keough

25: Integrative Nutrition with Sara Keough

March 3, 2021

Sara Keough MS, CNS, LDN  is an Integrative Eco-Nutritionist specializing in clinical nutrition and regenerative agriculture to restore both human and ecological health. “Eating is an agricultural act,” are words from Wendell Berry that have stuck with Keough through her career and help illustrate the nature of her work. Her goal is to teach her patients the importance of their food choices: it’s about individual health, and also about how those choices impact our ecosystems.

In a culture where discussions on diet and nutrition can often be very number-oriented or granular to the average eater, Sara’s approach stands out not only as holistic, but as tailored to the individual body (bio-individuality), exploratory, and social. She shares her knowledge and experience with nutrient dense foods, the role of animal proteins, farmers as healers, the value of eating seasonally, advice for navigating mixed messages around nutrition, and much more.

Sara Keough will be speaking at SFA’s virtual Midwest Soil Health Summit (March 9-11, 2021) on March 10. Learn more about the Midwest Soil Health Summit and register on the SFA website.

You can also keep up with Sara on Understanding Ag.  Some of her recent articles include:

Sara Keough, MS, CNS, LDN, Integrative Eco-Nutritionist
Katie Feterl, SFA, Communications Director

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

24: Restoring Oak Savanna

24: Restoring Oak Savanna

February 17, 2021

Tyler and Stephen pick up their conversation on oak savanna from our last episode: How do we restore oak savanna? What does it take? Where have we been and what’s been missed in prior restoration attempts?

According to Stephen, “restoration is restoring the processes that maintain the desirable vegetation.” He dives into a variety of techniques used to do so including spraying, mowing, burning, baling, and grazing. Knowing what to take and what to leave is key in changing the trajectory of an ecosystem.

Stephen and Tyler also get into a popular question: do we really need fire? What is necessary to maintain the savanna once you have it where you want it? To parse out an answer to that question, Stephen walks us through historical and ecological perspectives. Considering the relationship between burning and grazing, the pair land on grazing as a primary tool and burning as a secondary tool to maintain savanna grassland; grazing reduces the necessity of burning.

The opportunity of farming and restoring oak savanna simultaneously is exciting, and Stephen looks forward to the growing cooperation between farmers and conservationists to build understanding and successful restoration work. He imagines the potential that could stem from bringing grazers back into the picture on more of the landscape, even in urban areas: a stronger local food economy, more meaningful jobs. The possibilities just might be as diverse as the ecosystem itself.

 

SFA’s Silvopasture & Agroforestry webpage: https://www.sfa-mn.org/silvopasture-agroforestry/

Silvopasture Learning Network: https://silvopasture.umn.edu/home

 

The name we were struggling to remember towards the end of the episode was Tom Barthel of Snake River Farm. Check out his work in Sherburne county with bison and other grazers here.

 

Stephen Thomforde, Stantec, Senior Ecologist

Tyler Carlson, SFA, Silvopasture & Agroforestry Project Lead

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

This episode is supported and funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). It is part of the “Oak Savanna Restoration through Silvopasture Project” in cooperation with University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension, Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) at the University of Minnesota, and Great River Greening.

23: Oak Savanna Origins

23: Oak Savanna Origins

February 3, 2021

Stephen Thomforde, farmer, Stantec Senior Ecologist, and expert in fields of oak savanna research and restoration takes us on a deep dive into oak savannas. Throughout the episode, he describes the patterns of this ecosystem’s growth across geographical space and time, all the way back to when mammoths and mastodons walked Minnesota.

In short, a savanna is a grassland that has trees in it. Trees that have evolved with the grassland and the grazing animals. But even the history of the word originates back to aboriginal North Americans. And in his discussion with host Tyler Carlson, Stephen brings the 1,000-foot view of the ecosystem: illuminating complex details that are often left out of common narratives of oak savanna, and dropping us back in the present day. Why does the management of this landscape matter? What does it have to offer people? Find out in part one of this two-episode interview with Stephen Thomforde and Tyler Carlson.

Stephen Thomforde, Stantec, Senior Ecologist
Tyler Carlson, SFA, Silvopasture & Agroforestry Project Lead

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

 

This episode is supported and funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). It is part of the “Oak Savanna Restoration through Silvopasture Project” in cooperation with University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension, Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM) at the University of Minnesota, and Great River Greening.

22: Matchmaking for Livestock & Land

22: Matchmaking for Livestock & Land

January 20, 2021

“I think the future of farming looks more collaborative. It looks like working together, and it’s about stacking enterprises.” Meghan Filbert of Practical Farmers of Iowa (and a beginning farmer to boot) joins Dirt Rich to talk about an online tool facilitating just that. 

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) is a nonprofit in Ames, Iowa with a mission to equip farmers to build more resilient farms and communities. They believe that farmers learn best from other farmers, so it’s no surprise that the online platform they helped create brings farmers together.

The Midwest Grazing Exchange is billed as “a matchmaking website for livestock and land.” Farmers in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin can use the website to connect with folks looking for rural or urban land to graze their livestock on and vice versa. “It’s like Tinder for cows,” Meghan quips. 

There isn’t a lot of livestock on the land in Minnesota, so the website creates a great opportunity for beginning farmers and row crop farmers to partner and both reap the economic benefits. For host and farmer Jared Luhman, there’s definitely a draw. “Every day that my cattle are grazing is a day that I’m not feeding hay, and that day that I’m not feeding hay is saving me quite a bit of money. For me as a livestock producer, if I can find somewhere to graze my cattle on somebody else’s land for cheaper than I can feed it at my own farm, then I’m going to do it.” This matchmaking tool can also be an asset to beginning farmers in starting a custom grazing business.

In addition to the soil health benefits that come along with properly managed grazing, there’s even solid potential for an income stream for participating landowners. Meghan adds that “if you plant cover crops as a row crop producer, we know that by grazing those cover crops that is a way that you’re going to benefit economically in the short term. Within the same year...you can turn a profit and then some.” 

The Midwest Grazing Exchange website also includes other resources to help farmers make these grazing partnerships, such as templates for leases and agreements. In the episode, Meghan and Jared also have some pointers in figuring out your rate, and Meghan does a basic walkthrough on how to use the website and start finding opportunities in your area. If you’re looking to extend your grazing season, save some money, make some money, or improve your soil health with grazing--give the Midwest Grazing Exchange a gander!

Jared Luhman, SFA Soil Health Lead
Meghan Filbert, Practical Farmers of Iowa Livestock Program Manager
meghan@practicalfarmers.org (515) 232-5661

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.
 
Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

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