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IDEAS & ADVICE

A VOICE FOR SOIL HEALTH

Lee Kopriva

Lee Kopriva says he started his cow herd when he was four years old. He's been farming full time since graduating from South Dakota State University in 2009. He rents most of his land, farming with his father Jim in separate operations. He says it's important for landowners and tenants to share similar mindsets.

Ideas and Advice for NOLOs

Short term profit vs. long term benefits...

"In the short term you can do practices that may be profitable for a couple of years and gain you more profit in the short term. But in the long term really the gain is making the soil better and making it better than when you first took it over. So if you look at that long term benefit, it’s really more profitable than several years of short term mining the soil."

The big picture...

"We're looking at the big picture and making the farm and ranch businesses work together. We’re getting cattle back on cropland, using our crop residue, planting cover crops when there isn’t a season long crop growing, grazing that stubble, and getting livestock nutrients back onto the soil. It's a whole circle, holistic approach to making the farming and ranching businesses work together and be profitable over the long term."

Not mining, but adding to resources...

"The benefit I’m adding to an owner's land is increasing the organic matter in the soil, increasing the soil health and not mining the resources but adding to them. There’s quite a bit of economic benefit from that."

Relationships that work...

"I think our landowners see that we are conservation minded, we're going to take care of the resources, we aren’t going to overstock, we’re going to leave cover to catch snow in the winter, we're going to delay turnout if the grass isn’t growing very quick in the spring. Small things like that kind of mesh our mindset together, with the landowner benefitting and the tenant benefitting. If you can mesh that mindset together, those are relationships that work.

That long-term relationship between the landowner and tenant comes when there’s a similar mindset, where that landowner sees that the tenant is working towards soil health and is taking care of the land, is a good person to work with, is community minded, and it’s not all about profit."