A lot of dirty talk took place on Wednesday at Sobieski.
The Morrison County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) hosts a Soil Health Field Day where growers across the region can get tips from speakers and vendors on how to maximize yields with the best soils. I made it. The event also included breakout sessions on rainfall simulators and topics ranging from conservation equipment to field soil health assessments.
The day started with presentations from industry experts on how growers can get the most out of their soil.
Peder Kjeseth, Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), said: “I think it’s a field practice, but it’s also really about cultivating partnerships.
The MDA, he said, relies heavily on partners and producers to help Minnesota people achieve their own goals for specific productions. We also rely on local soil and water conservation districts for soil certification.
Kjeseth is also the Director of Government Relations with the MDA. He highlighted his three items coming up in Congress in 2022.
“Believe it or not, some good things came out of it,” he said.
He said the MDA received $500,000 in funding to start the Soil Health Financial Assistance Pilot Program. , encouraged attendees to provide feedback on how they hoped it would work.
MDA also received a McKnight Foundation grant for the Climate Smart Farms project. This allows eligible producers to receive up to $1,000 in grants to help implement certain practices on their farms.
Through the partnership, the MDA will also release a Farmer’s Carbon Market Guide this fall.
“As you know, there is a lot going on and it is very complicated,” says Kjeseth. We are trying to clarify a very complicated situation. “
Originally from Flensburg, currently working for the Stearns County SWCD, Grant Pearson is a Certified Specialist in the Minnesota Ag Quality Certification Program.
His presentation centered around water quality certification programs. Through this program, we help certify farms that implement and maintain known best management processes (BMPs) to protect water and soil health. Once the producer has demonstrated the required level of his BMP implementation, a certification contract valid for 10 years can be signed.
“Farmers often ask me, ‘So, what are the benefits for me of joining this program?'” says Pearson. “The main thing about this program is that it really tells the story of farmers who care about their farms and their resources and do their best to grow a very rich and healthy food source for all of us. At the same time, they are protecting the soil and water.”
He also said there is a financial aid grant for the program through the MDA where individuals can receive up to $5,000 annually. I was.
As of Monday, Pearson said there are 1,251 certified farms statewide, totaling nearly 900,000 acres. Morrison County SWCD Director Shannon Wetstein added that Morrison County is one of the top counties in the state in terms of farms enrolled in the program.
The keynote speaker was Keith Olander, Executive Director of AgCentric, Northern Minnesota Agricultural Center for Excellence. Olander was previously Dean of Agricultural Studies at Central Lakes College in Staples.
Olander’s presentation focused on ways to enable producers to implement environmental improvements while remaining economically viable.
“As we move forward, we have never seen consumers interested in where their products come from, how they are produced, and how they impact the land.
He said there are large demographics across the country and even the world that are “totally disconnected from productive agriculture.” As such, they rely on their producers, but they also want them to operate in an efficient and sustainable manner.
Of that mindset, he said producers have a responsibility to share their stories. We need to tell people that we care more about what happens in the future in order to do so.
“Social media doesn’t always point the message in that direction,” says Pearson. “Sometimes the message comes out that we’re only interested in profits this year, but that’s really not the case. That’s really the mindset we need to work on.”
He said that remaining environmentally sustainable while being economically viable is a true ‘balancing act’. Producers have to make sure food is on the table, loans are paid, and machines are in good working order. Once these needs are met, issues such as water quality certification, cover crops and carbon sequestration can be considered.
“It’s a matter of how you balance it in the process,” he said. “I think it will be relatively easy this year, because it is profitable, at least for us right now.
According to Pearson, his farm management “class” isn’t through college, but is a student-led, one-on-one educational program. The ‘classes’ take place on producer farms and the whole idea is to take a business look at your personal goals and figure out ‘how much does it cost to produce what you produce’.
He said growers use a software program called FinPack that helps them perform farm valuations. We will further build it into a powerful database.
AgCentric commissioned 2,300 farms for analysis, 30 to 59 of which were from Morrison County.
This program allows growers to chart survival rates on an annual basis. Putting a straight line above the ups and downs helps show where they need to be to enable enhancements like cover cropping and carbon sequestration, he said.
“Whether we’re producers or work with producers, it’s something we all have to understand. There are years when this works and years when it doesn’t,” said Olander. . “You have lived it.”
The idea, he said, is to implement something economically viable even in a recession year. This is especially important now, he said, as 2023 is a “real question mark” from the profitable years of 2020-2022.
“If fertilizer and fuel stay the same and commodity prices drop 10%, 15%, 20%, we will have cash flow problems in 2023,” says Olander.
He said the key is to measure and manage because what is not measured cannot be managed. In other words, producers should factor in all input costs and what a particular enhancement might include when deciding what is viable.
There are currently 90 farms enrolled in his organization’s program. Using the metrics you receive, ask growers why they are more or less profitable than their peers when implementing soil health enhancement.
“It’s more important than ever for us to know. What are our costs and how do we move forward?” said Hollander. “Can you do X, Y, or Z in relation to improving soil health, especially when making decisions?”
His class uses water quality certification to collect data. They can compare data with other certified producers. It can also be compared to growers who do not or have implemented other forms of soil health enhancement. The study involved a total of 94 farms from 42 different counties, and now he is in his third year, allowing him to create a three-year trend line.
They are now starting the same research on cover crops.
“If you’re water certified, you’re more profitable than your competitors,” says Olander. “Why is the problem?”
The survey also takes into account items such as whether the producer keeps livestock and how diligently the producer manages it. This allows you to find correlative factors for success.
“If you’re not currently measuring data, you’re going to have a hard time comparing and managing it over time,” says Olander.
At the start of the cover crop pilot program, he said, he found that there are additional input costs that need to be taken into account. Machine wear and tear. But does that offset the cost of chemicals and fertilizers?
These are all questions we hope to answer in the next few years as we work to make our farms profitable and sustainable for future generations.
“Now more importantly, tell us your story,” said Hollander. “The easiest time to be together is at the Thanksgiving and Christmas table. Sometimes there is an inherent belief that we are only after profitability and the environment is aside.