Minnesota farmers to lead workshop on farm finances, soil health in Preston

A Land Stewardship Project (LSP) workshop called, “Cover Crops, No-Till & Grazing: Evaluating the Economics and First Steps to Improving Soil” will be held Friday, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the St. Columban Church in Preston.

It will feature presentations by southwestern Minnesota farmers Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz, along with southeastern Minnesota farmers Tom Cotter of Austin and Myron Sylling of Spring Grove. The cost is $20 per individual, which includes lunch; students receive a $10 scholarship rate. To register by Feb. 13, contact LSP’s Alex Romano at 507-523-3366.

Between the testimonials of pioneering farmers like Gabe Brown, the media buzz and new research around the benefits of soil health and farm profitability, area farmers are looking to take steps to build soil through practices like no-till, cover cropping and rotational grazing, according to LSP. Yet, new practices bring their share of challenges, successes and even failures. The farmers presenting at the Feb. 15 workshop will address this learning curve with stories from their own operations.

In their 20 years of farming in Redwood County, the Breitkreutzes have put forth a massive effort to regenerate their soils by practicing no-till row cropping and managed rotational grazing, as well as diversified cover cropping. They believe that soil health and regenerative agriculture should not be considered an expense — everything they do on their land has an economic return plus a soil health benefit.

Their presentation will be followed up by a group discussion and presentations from Cotter and Sylling on their own experiences with soil building methods such as cover cropping, reduced tillage and rotational grazing.

Cotter, from Austin, raises no-till and strip-till conventional corn and soybeans, as well as sweet corn and peas, and is transitioning some land to organic. His family also raises beef cattle and they incorporate practices such as cover crop grazing, interseeding covers into corn, and growing a warm season cover crop.

Sylling, who farms near Spring Grove, is a longtime cash grain producer who has been no-tilling for 20 years and using cover crops intensively for the past six years.

“The best thing that Grant and Dawn bring to the soil health conversation is their experience with practical implementation of good soil building methods,” said Mike Seifert, a no-till crop farmer from Jordan, Minnesota. “As a farmer who has read about and studied the principles of soil health, my biggest questions revolve around how to implement those principles in a realistic way on my own farm. That's where Grant and Dawn come in. They've been experimenting with soil health methods for years, and they talk about those experiences in a way that is honest, direct and relevant to farmers who want to get started down the road to soil health on the right foot.”

Directions to St. Columban Church, 408 Preston St. NW: From U.S. Highway 52, turn south onto St. Paul Street NW; after 0.1 miles, turn right to stay on St. Paul Street; in 0.2 miles turn left onto Preston Street NW. The church will be on your left.