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Soil Health Advocates Helping Farmers Fix Soil, Grow Profits

Soil health advocates Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta and Russell Hedrick share their message of regenerative — and profitable — farming.

In April 2019, about 30 farmers, from around Wisconsin flocked to T&R Dairy in Watertown, Wis., for a 3-day Soil Health Academy ecological nutrient management seminar put on by Understanding Ag and hosted by no-tiller Tony Peirick.

I got to spend a little time with teachers Ray Archuleta, of Seymour, Mo.; Gabe Brown of Bismarck, N.D.; and Russell Hedrick, of Hickory, N.C., each of them a leading expert in soil health and regenerative agriculture principles. The following is an excerpt from my chat with them, where they generously shared some of the concepts taught in the seminar. To hear more of our talk, listen to our podcast for additional insights from these masters of agroecology.

Q: The name of this seminar is “Ecological Nutrient Management.” What new concepts are you teaching?

Brown

Brown: Farmers, in general, are spending too much on nutrients and inputs and not getting the return that’s necessary for them to be profitable. Plus, from an ecological standpoint, watersheds are being negatively affected in many cases by over-application of nutrients.

So we’re focusing on what producers can do to hold those nutrients on their land, cycling them in a more natural way, rather than spending all the money on inputs.

Hedrick

Hedrick: One of the most expensive things in a farmer’s budget is fertility. The problem is that the traditional test we’ve been using for the last 30-40 years doesn’t take into account what’s already there, what we’re seeing from organic matter breakdown, how we’re benefitting from biology releasing…

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Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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