After a long hiatus, our annual Farmer Breakfast, an educational event for area ag professionals, returned on February 16, 2023!
About 70 people gathered at Clunette Elevator in Clunette to enjoy breakfast and learn how practices like cover crops, no-till planting, and nutrient management can improve soil health and productivity.
Speakers included Barry Fisher (Fisher Soil Health, LLC), Chad Schotter (Natural Resources Conservation Service), and Russell Anderson (Anderson Farms).
Fisher kicked off the event. “Soil health is all about soil function that increases resilience,” he said. Healthy soil is a living ecosystem that includes many different nutrients and microorganisms. While some farming strategies capitalize on that living ecosystem, Fisher explained, others strategies tend to destroy it. Practices like cover crops and no-till planting can help protect soil structure, conserve nutrients, and minimize erosion. They also promote moisture and temperature control, protecting against extreme weather conditions like heavy spring rains and midsummer drought.
Fisher spoke about the challenging decisions farmers face every season, including which equipment to invest in. Using a 6-row planter custom-built by Clunette Elevator, he showed attendees how modern technologies can help farmers control seed depth, fertilize effectively, and reduce soil compaction, among other benefits.
“The bottom line? Know your soil,” said Fisher, encouraging farmers to learn which equipment and strategies work best for their operation’s needs and goals.
Chad Schotter, Kosciusko County NRCS District Conservationist, followed with a rainfall simulator demonstration. The simulator showed how heavy rainfall interacts with different ground surfaces, including asphalt and soil samples containing grass, tilled soil, and untilled soil planted with cover crops. Participants watched as the “rain” drained off each surface, filling their respective containers with different amounts of water and, in some cases, sediment.
“Biology helps create stability in the soil,” explained Schotter. “You can ruin soil much quicker than you can build it.” Practices like cover cropping and no-till planting leave living roots intact, promoting moisture infiltration and protecting against runoff and nutrient loss.
Finally, local farmer Russell Anderson spoke about his experience with various conservation farming techniques. Anderson farms close to 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans in Kosciusko, Elkhart, and Noble counties every year. His operation has always been “conservation-minded,” he explained, including no-till planting for almost 30 years. But that effort has taken a great deal of trial, error, and learning.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” said Anderson. He recalled one season when he tried to create the right conditions for spring planting, only to realize he had overworked the ground and weakened his soil structure.
Like his colleagues in the room, Anderson researches and consults with other experts in the field, weighing the needs of his operation against the potential risks and rewards of different farming strategies.
“We don’t farm in a classroom or in theory. We farm in the real world. Everything we do has to have a reason,” says Anderson. “It’s about more than conservation. It’s about soil health and regeneration.”
In the end, after years of pursuing healthy soil, Anderson believes his efforts have led to greater success and resilience for his family’s farm.
This event was co-hosted by The Watershed Foundation, Kosciusko Soil and Water Conservation District, Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative, and the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation. Crossroads Bank and Ferguson Farms provided generous sponsorship, and Clunette Elevator graciously hosted.
Thanks to everyone who made the 2023 Farmer Breakfast such a success, and thanks to all who attended – we look forward to seeing you next year!
For information about other upcoming events for farmers, contact the TWF office.
Want to learn more? Visit our Conservation Agriculture page to see how local farmers are keeping the land green and our lakes clean!