Family, Farming & Ranching Focus of 2020 Farmers Union Young Producers Event
Struggle is part of life. “It’s not so much the struggle, but how you act during the struggle that builds the character and strength necessary to get through the next struggle,” recalls Curtis Johnson, a Miller crop and cattle farmer of the valuable advice he discovered listening to speaker Jeff Gould. “”His advice was applicable not only to struggles you may go through in farming, but also in family life and marriage and raising children,” adds his wife, Kelly.
Gould, also an author and broadcaster, was one of several speakers the Johnsons enjoyed during South Dakota Farmers Union Annual Young Producers Event held in Deadwood this January. In addition to Gould, the event featured a session on tax law, led by Jeff and Rachel Kippley, Aberdeen crop and cattle farmers and accountants; information on fetal programming in feeding cows, led by Amanda Blair, Professor & SDSU Extension Meat Science Specialist; information on building soil health, led by Austin Carlson, Soil Health Technician with the S.D. Soil Health Coalition and more.
“We’ve attended other meetings, but they often only focus on one topic. This meeting hit on a lot of different areas that are applicable to us, our farm and our life,” says Kelly, who works as an occupational therapist at Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital in Miller.
Sponsored by South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU), the two-day event, is designed to meet the needs and interests of young producers, like the Johnsons, explains Rocky Forman, Member Services Coordinator.
“Family farmers and ranchers are the reason we do what we do as an organization. Farmers Union is here to support them and their rural communities,” Forman explains.
In addition to speakers, Curtis and Kelly appreciated getting to know other young producers from across the state. “March through June, I don’t get off the farm much. So, it was a nice chance to speak with other farmers and ranchers,” Curtis says. “It is eye-opening to learn about other people’s farms and how they do things.”
Supporting agriculture’s future through soil health
Like the farmers and ranchers he presented to during the Young Producers event, Austin Carlson is a young farmer. Growing up on his family’s crop and cattle farm near Garretson, Carlson knew he would be happiest if his career kept him engaged in farming.
Today, in addition to helping his dad, Bruce, on their family farm, the soil health technician is engaged in helping farmers and ranchers across his region discover and implement the best soil health practices for their operation.
By focusing on soil health, Carlson says farmers can save money through practices like no-till farming, and over the long-term they can reduce the use of costly inputs. “Healthy soils cycle nutrients better. I know a lot of people who have been implementing no-till, cover crops and other soil health practices for several years and they are able to cut back on applying fertilizer.”
While soil health practices are a way for farmers to reduce costs on crop acres, some practices, like planting forage cover crops, can also provide cattle producers with additional forage allowing them to extend their grazing season and cut back on feed expenses.
Cost savings aside, the biggest benefit Carlson sees to implementing soil health practices on the farm or ranch is more long term. He explains that rebuilding the soil’s health and replenishing soil lost to erosion will ensure farm and ranch kids like him, can have a future in South Dakota’s agriculture.
When Carlson and his dad first began implementing soil health practices on their fields, they relied heavily on information gleaned from Soil Health Schools hosted by the S.D. Soil Health Coalition or insight from other farmers. Today, Carlson helps connect farmers wanting to know more with those who have a long history of soil health practices through a confidential mentor program organized through local Natural Resources Conservation Service office.
To learn more about the S.D. Soil Health Coalition and link to resources, visit www.sdsoilhealthcoalition.org. To connect with farmers or ranchers in your area who volunteer as soil health mentors, readers can also contact Luke Reindl, SDFU Communications & Legislative Specialist who coordinates the organization’s Building Connections for Soil Health mentorship program at [email protected]