IDEAS & ADVICE

WOMEN NOLO THOUGHTS
ABOUT CONSERVATION, SOIL HEALTH

When a group of South Dakota women landowners—some of whom live on the farm, some who live out of state—gathered to learn more about soil health and how to best care for the land they own, we asked them a few questions about how they view the importance of conservation and soil health, and whether they face any special challenges as a woman landowner. Hover over the images to view the highlights of what they had to say. 

JEAN AKLUFI

I’m interested in building land health because it’s one of the few small things that I might be able to have some influence over. I know out in California I have three friends who, just in my circle of friends, three friends that own land in the Midwest and none of us have ever been asked before what we thought about conservation.

This is the first time someone has ever sent me something telling me it was important, what I thought about it. Now I know who to call if I have a question.

Brown County
CAROL SCHLOMER

If you don’t take care of your soil, you’re not going to have good land to grow your crops. I was blessed by having a husband who taught me about no-till and why that’s so important; he always shared the information with me. I think it’s something that every farm wife should know because it’s their business.

Women landowners have challenges—they have to know their stuff so once they become the landowners, through inheritance or whatever, they know how to deal with a renter, and ask the renter to do good farming practices.

Brookings/Walworth County
KRISTY TOSTENSON

I’m interested in conserving land and soil health to keep my mom and dad’s legacy going. They’re the ones that have built this farm, my mom’s parents first, so we are the third generation. I have four sons and 8 grandchildren; I’d like to keep it going!

Dad passed away and I’m relearning some of the things that I knew growing up like the importance of crop rotation.

The kind of assistance that’s most helpful is being able to go to the county agencies or the federal agencies or the state agency and get the information on preserving wildlife or waterways or how to preserve so that your topsoil doesn’t go down the ditch.

Grant County
MARY THOMSON

Caring for the land is my number one priority. The land was very important to my father and I want to continue to conserve it so I can pass it down to my children.

I think women landowners have special challenges because traditionally ag has been a man’s world and sometimes when I ask questions I get a lot of eye rolling or, you know, what do you want to know that for? So I don’t think they always take women landowners seriously.

I would like more information about conserving the land.

Roberts County
ANNE WEILAND

For our farm, soil conservation has been the top priority. We’ve actually taken less rent in order to make this happen. NRCS actually created our entire plan. I came to them with no plan whatsoever except for wanting to reseed to native grasses, and they developed an entire plan, and also helped us procure a grant.

Definitely women have special challenges. There’s a certain amount of respect that has to be gained,  from other operators as well as people in the business that you’re dealing with.

Hanson County
JEAN FRANCEUS

As far as we know, back on my mom’s side of the family, land has always been passed on to the next generation. I remember as a kid driving to a ranch that was habitually overgrazed. And we would comment on the damage that was doing.

Years later, when I came back and drove past that same land, and it was different. It had grass growing, it was healthy, it was recovered. I found out the land was under new management. They were doing this intense rotational grazing—because I saw results before I understood the principles, no one can convince me that it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen the difference that principles can make. And, the NRCS is a wonderful resource.

Jerauld County
KAYLA BOESEN

I would say I’m still in the learning stages—I still have a lot of learning to do. The most helpful thing for us has been getting more involved in cover crops and no-tillage through the NRCS office and trying to preserve a lot more of the pasture with the natural land, grasses and stuff.

Taking care of the land fits towards the very top of my priorities for what I do on my farm. Women landowners face a lot of more issues, and problems than men do in trying to get resources and help. Walking into an office and being told “Let me talk to your husband” when you’re the one that runs it is a big downfall we’ve run into.

Brule/Jerauld County
SHERI LELAND

We are interested in conserving our land and building soil health because our philosophy is to leave the land better than we found it. On our land, we started with fairly saline and fairly poor soil so we’re working towards building that for the future for our kids and grandkids.

We rank taking care of our land probably number one in our list of priorities because if you don’t have good land then everything else doesn’t come either.

I do feel that as women, we’ve had different challenges than men do. We have a stereotype to break and we need to be able to prove that we can make decisions as well or better than men.

Davison County
SHARON FREDRICHS

I live in San Diego, and when I journey back here I see less permanent vegetation, fewer cattle, and lots of plowed up land. I see erosion, and black soil going across the road. My concern is how we keep that soil in South Dakota.

No matter what your knowledge is, with You Tube and pamphlets, the websites—it’s all there for you.

Go to your soil conservation district office. There are people there who can make maps for you. Then you can go home and study your own land. It’s just wonderful. You can sit down and actually know what you own and how you want to make it better. Go into the office and they’ll help you with it.

Sanborn County
MARIE WEISZ

I think we’re put on this earth to be good stewards of God’s land and I’ve always been very interested in good nutrition, good food, and that comes from good soil health. And the different people that are from NRCS and the conservation district, they’re very knowledgeable. I feel like I can call on them with questions I might have. I did not know about all of these resources that are available.

Davison County
KATHY STELZER

About 20 years ago my husband and I planted 2.000 trees under the direction of the state forester. We have a waterway, we have native prairie. I want to make the best of those things now and in the future so I can continue to get a crop on the crop ground. But let’s make the best of those other issues as well.

Taking care of the land is a top priority for me because it was given to me by my family and it’s been in my family for 100 years. It was a top priority for them and I want to maintain and make it the best in the future as well.

McCook County
ARDIS SMITH

I’m new at this. I’ve only had two seasons of crop planting, and I want to better my land. I know that’s what my father would want me to do, is keep the land in good condition, so that we have good production off the land.

Hanson County
GAYLA STEWART

I have a situation where my tenant isn’t sure he’s going to be able to continue renting land I’ve owned since the middle 80s. I want to make sure I get a tenant who is using or has knowledge of best practices for soil conservation.

I am not knowledgeable. I just left it up to my tenant, let my tenant take care of it all and I’ve just realized the acreage I have is important. I’m seeing now that every acre is important. I’m going to make an appointment at the conservation office in Salem.

McCook County
NOLO TO NOLO: JEANNIE FRANCEAUS

“There is a tendency to think that is wasteful not to graze pastures all the way down, but the SD Grassland Coalition and partners taught me that the grass you leave behind is mulch for the soil and results in more grass next year. It really does!” Jeannie Franceus