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The Soil Revolution

December 19, 2019 @ 7:00 am - 5:30 pm

$20 – $70

Adventures in Regenerative Farming: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In 1983, the DeSutter family veered off the beaten path of conventional tillage into ridge-till to conserve soil and improve the bottom line. While their methods continuously evolve with their understanding of soil health and function, the focus on regenerating soils remains central to all management decisions. Dan will discuss challenges and successes of economics, pest pressures, and market differentiation as they transition their no-till/cover crop system into organic production using the five principles of soil health as their roadmap.

Dan DeSutter farms in west-central Indiana with his wife, Barbie, and three sons, Dylan, Damon and Dalton. His farm has become a national leader in soil conservation and hosts tour groups from around the globe. Long-term no-till, cover crops and grazing form the core of their soil health practices. The farm is currently transitioning to organic production. Dan earned a degree in Finance from Indiana University. He worked as a financial analyst and commodity broker before returning to the family farm. He has served as President of the local Community Foundation and School Board. Dan was selected as the “No-Till Innovator of the Year” in 2011. In 2015, he was awarded an Eisenhower Fellowship to study the cultural, economic and social factors that cause farmers to adopt good soil health practices. In his spare time, he enjoys flying, water sports, snow skiing, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Building Resiliency and the Triple Bottom Line on Your Farm with Organic Matter

Kevin will cover the evolution of his family’s farm from rundown ground with 1% organic matter to verdant fields with 6% organic matter. He will discuss the aggressive tactics he and his family took to add organic matter back to the soil quickly, as well as the setbacks, the successes and how valuing organic matter and soil health can work to increase the resiliency of an operation.

Kevin and Keri Schilthuis and family farm almost 200 acres of certified organic irrigated farmland. They have built soil organic matter from 1% to 6% and doubled cation exchange capacity. Kevin hails from northern Wyoming where he and his family of six homesteaded 80 acres of unwanted farmland in 2007. A career combining agriculture and construction, spanning several continents, has provided a problem-solving mentality to enable an interesting soil health program that encourages land owners to responsibly mineralize the soil by treating it as a bank account below their feet.

No Water? No Problem! Jumpstarting Your Biological Activity on Rangeland

This session will address how to increase your biological activity when you don’t have the rainfall or irrigation water to support traditional methods to improve soil health. Steve will discuss how he got started with on-farm composting and holistic resource management, the benefits he has observed in terms of yield, resiliency and herd health and how his management strategies continue to evolve in order to best manage soil health in a semi-arid environment.

Steve Charter, a third-generation rancher, hails from north of Billings, Montana, where the fourth and fifth generations also live on the ranch. Steve was invited to attend the first Allan Savory School in Montana in 1981. Steve and his wife Jean helped found the Center for Holistic Resource Management and started a management club to help learn how to implement these practices. In 2013, Steve and his family started experimenting with other regenerative practices to build soil carbon, including creating vermicast and compost to jumpstart biological activity on their semi-arid rangeland. In addition to directly spraying biological extract on the land they are exploring ways to use livestock to apply the biology. He also uses cover crops to help build the soil.

Infiltration Demonstration

Elizabeth will run a water infiltration test on two different local soils. Using Valmont cobbly clay samples from two neighboring vegetable gardens with different tillage regimens, she will demonstrate how rainfall infiltrates at different rates into soil, depending on how that soil has been managed.

Elizabeth Black is a 35-year Boulder resident, living in North Boulder on an acre with irrigation rights to the Silver Lake Ditch. She works as an artist painting landscapes and has a very small U-cut Christmas tree farm and veggie stand with her husband Chris Brown. She has a lot of experience organizing events and people, most notably the 1997 Crestview West Annexation of 50 of her neighbors because of polluted well water, and the 2009 Ditch Project , about the irrigation ditches in and round the City of Boulder. She is very concerned about Climate Change, and has been promoting soil carbon sequestration as a mitigating strategy for several years. As she has learned more about Front Range agriculture and soils, she has decided that her best strategy is to give tools to land stewards, so they can figure out how they can get their soil in the best shape possible, to withstand the droughts and floods ahead, and to draw down atmospheric CO2. So, she has organized a Citizen Science Soil Health Project, to help growers prove they are improving their soil.

Practical Methods for Healthy Soils on Diversified Vegetable Farms

Helen will discuss the boundary-pushing efforts she and her husband, Carl, have been using on their farm in eastern Oregon to build soil health in vegetable and fruit production systems, based on 35 years of monitoring increasing soil organic matter, CEC, soil microbial activity, and crop yield and quality on their organic farms in Montana and California. She will explain her evolution towards a low-input, labor-saving, soil- and habitat-building farm system, and how she employs carbon farming, reduced tillage/no-tillage, permanent living mulches and “grow-your-own-fertilizer” in her vegetable fields and high tunnels. Helen will also cover how she trials these new methods and how she evaluates the return on investment.

Helen has spent 35 years working to connect farming, food systems, and land stewardship. She farms and does soil- and natural enemies’ habitat- building research on a 211-acre organic farm in Eastern Oregon which she co-owns with her husband. She and her husband also create educational videos at AgrarianDreams. Helen has an M.S. in Horticulture from Rutgers University and has worked in education and research at Rutgers and the University of Arkansas and as a Horticulture Extension Agent in Montana where she designed, taught, and wrote the manual for an organic Master Garden course. She also owned/operated a 30-acre certified organic vegetable/fruit farm in Montana. Helen wrote grants and conducted several on-farm research projects in Montana and California, including: ecological weed and insect management, organic reduced tillage systems for vegetable and orchard crops, managing living mulches for soil and habitat building. Learn more at Organic Farm System: Biodesign Farm. Helen farmed with her husband at certified organic Woodleaf Farm in California and worked part-time as a research assistant for Oregon State University studying and analyzing soil/pest records from several long-term, successful Western organic farms. Helen was a board member for the Organic Farming Research Foundation 2000-2005 and advisor for Wild Farm Alliance in 2018/2019.

Cover Cropping for Sustainability: My Story

This is my story of how introducing cover crops to our operation is helping move us toward a sustainable system both on the land and economically. It is a work in progress, things are always changing, but our goal remains the same: Sustainability.

Jim and his wife Charlene farm and ranch in Northeast Colorado and Western Nebraska. Jim is a third-generation farmer to operate his farm. On the dryland acres they raise wheat, corn, millet and pinto beans and raise wheat corn and beans on the irrigated acres. They are experimenting with incorporating multi species cover crops in their rotations to supplement grazing for their cow/calf operation. Jim and Charlene also operate Dolezal certified seed and work with Arrow Seed selling forages, grass mixtures, pollinators and cover crop seed.


December 19, 2019
7:00 am - 5:30 pm
$20 – $70


Boulder County


Boulder JCC
6007 Oreg Ave
Boulder, CO 80303 United States
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