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IDEAS & ADVICE

A VOICE FOR SOIL HEALTH

Dan Forgey

 

Dan Forgey farms just north of the Oahu Reservoir in central South Dakota. He's been with Cronin Farms and a farmer for more than 48 years. He says in the first 24 years of farming he destroyed the soil, and that he's spent the last 24 years building the soil up again.

Ideas and Advice for NOLOs

Diversify crops for soil health...

"No-till was the big revolution in what we started doing, and a lot of people were satisfied with rotating crops and no-till. We got into cover crops and a more diversified rotation and that helped us accelerate building organic matter, which is the driving force of soil health. That paid a huge benefit to the farm."

Every landlord should know...

"One thing every landlord should know is that some people mine the soil, and you’ve really got to watch that. If you’re renting land to somebody, ask them about their farm practices, how much high carbon crops and high residue crops they’re using, and ask if they’ll keep a record of soil samples and share that with you. You can have someone come on the farm for you and if they decide to mine the soil, they can degrade your land a lot quicker than you might think. So ask them if they’ll share soil sample information, especially the organic matter levels."

Look for a tenant who's interested in improving soil health...

"If you have a tenant that doesn’t really want to build soil health, I would really recommend that you have him go to some events where they’re talking about soil health and see the benefits of it. My feeling is that if you cannot find someone who will do that, you go look for someone who will. There’s a lot of good farmers around that practice soil health, and they’re the ones that you’re going to get paid back time and time again. But first, try to convince that person to practice good soil health."

Both landlord and tenant benefit...

"A landowner has to be educated just like a tenant does. Both us and the landlord benefit from soil health. The main reason is, in the last 12 years we’ve raised our organic matter by one percent. Organic matter is the driving force, so if you get someone who says with rotation and covers they can increase your organic matter, you’re in a win situation. As a landowner, that’s the person you want to go after. People can be degrading your soil, and they can be making your soil better. You really have to understand what’s going on with your farm, on your land."