S.D. Grasslands Coalition meets in Chamberlain
I recently attended the 2014 Winter Road Show in Chamberlain, one of many educational events organized by the South Dakota Grasslands Coalition (SDGC, http://www.sdgrass.org/.) I can’t say offhand that I know how long the organization has been in existence, but when one looks at the list of events the group coordinates and/or is involved in over a years’ time, it’s evident that the impacts are impressive.
Being intrigued by the speakers and topics on the agenda for the 2013 Winter Road Show, and by chance, having a dentist appointment the morning of the event held in Chamberlain, I decided to attend, admittedly, somewhat out of curiosity. As Jim Faulstich, chairman of the board of directors so honestly put it during this years’ annual meeting, sandwiched between Gabe Brown’s thought provoking presentations, the coalition gets good attendance at their annual meetings by “tricking” people into attending to hear the outstanding speakers they bring in.
Needless to say, the room was full; and as the annual meeting was conducted, it was evident that the passion that SDGC members have for their organization, way of life, and the resource their existence depends on was as much a part of the attendance as the speaker. If you are a rancher, own grasslands, work with anyone who does, or are even just interested in grasslands, you should be a member of the SDGC.
When I said that the passion SDGC members have for their organization was as much a part of the attendance as the speaker, by no means do I disregard the appeal of hearing Gabe Brown, the speaker for the 2014 Winter Road Show. I admit that the opportunity to hear his story was part of the reason I made a point to attend, which supports Jim Faulstich’s philosophy.
In the remainder of this column, I can barely hint at what attendees of the event heard from the North Dakota producer, but as the title of this column states, it was a lot to get your head around. The gist of Gabe’s presentation emphasized the importance of soil health in farming and ranching, and if soil health has been degraded, how to regenerate it. As has occurred on many farms and ranches across the country, he took over the management of a farm on which the soils had declined from the 7 or 8 percent organic matter that soils experts say was typical of those soils when in native prairie, to less than 2 percent.
His five part plan and recommendation to regenerate soil health includes: minimize mechanical disturbance, establish and maintain “soil armor,” utilize plant diversity, have living roots growing in the soil as long as possible, and incorporate animal impact. In short, this means that crop production needs to be accomplished using no-till practices, a mat of plant residue needs to be established and maintained in lieu of bare soil, cover crop mixtures need to be grown before, during and/or after a cash crop, and grazing animals need to be a part of the operation.
The story of what Gabe and his family has accomplished and how he has done it is truly amazing, and in no way could be explained in this space. To learn more, visit the Brown’s Ranch website: http://brownsranch.us/.