The Western Canada Conference on Soil Health and the Western Canadian Grazing Conference were combined into a 3-day event in 2017. A number of Alberta applied research and forage associations organize and present these popular events with help from partners in industry and government. The conferences in 2015 and 2017 featured, among other top researchers and soil health practitioners, Gabe Brown of Bismarck, North Dakota.
“The annual Eco-Ag Conference sets the standard for innovation and learning in modern agriculture. The educational experience and trade show, now in its 44th year, unites farmers, ranchers and ag professionals from every facet of eco-farming to share their experience and expertise. Beginning and generational farmers running sustainable farms – as well as those in transition from conventional to organic – will walk away with useful, practical information that they can apply to their operations right away. Don’t miss the non-stop action:
– All-day Eco-Ag U workshops
– Learning sessions &
– Consulting halls
– Round table discussions
– Eco-Ag Trade Show
– Film Screenings
– Book store
– Book signings”
This Conference is being organized by the Clemson University Sustainable Agriculture Program in collaboration with Clemson Extension, the University of South Carolina and stakeholder organizations with support from USDA Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture (SARE) Program. The Conference objectives are to 1) Discuss new scientific discoveries that inform the latest recommendations to build health soil; 2) Hear from farmers who have implemented innovative approaches for building a resilient system; 3) Engage with farmers, Extension personnel and other ag professionals to address soil health challenges and opportunities; 4) Provide tools for teaching soil health for agriculture professionals who work with farmers.
During this conference soil health experts will provide an historical perspective on soil health in the U.S. and discuss critical components of soil health management including basic soil health principles, biology of regenerative soils, and new indicators of soil health. It will feature breakout sessions on specific soil health management practices for livestock, row crop and horticultural producers, and conclude with a facilitated discussion on the economics of soil health.
Day Two of the conference will offer special extended programming on “Tools for Teaching Soil Health”, for Extension agents and other agriculture professionals who work with farmers. Sessions will include a panel discussion with soil health experts on teaching soil health to farmers, overviews of various soil health testing methods and indicators, and hands-on demonstrations of on-farm activities that can be used for teaching soil health.
At our annual gathering at Lake Morey, we have been building a cohort of engaged farmers, policymakers, educators, and community members. Projects that have come out of our past gatherings include the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition, the Can We Rehydrate California? Initiative, major shifts in soil health policy, many hands-on workshops, talks, curriculum, online courses, and more.
Here’s what Dave Chapman, Founder of Long Wind Farm and the Real Organic Project said:
“The workshop that Didi facilitated this weekend with Walter Jehne was stellar. I count it as one of the best educational experiences of my life. The intimacy and community-building of the three days at Lake Morey Resort was a significant part of the experience.”
This year we are taking it to a new level. We will focus our learning on communication, communities of practice, and emergent strategies, which are aims and adaptive actions that become clear as a result of ongoing learning, listening, and observation within a community. Here are some examples:
Emergent strategy is the basis of the incredibly high gains in soil carbon at a group of farms in Saskatchewan, whose holistic managers gather every month in a community of practice to discuss failures, successes, new learning, long term aims, and immediate challenges in their land and relationships. (I wrote about this in The Ecology of Care, and the upcoming book Health in the Anthropocene.)
Emergent strategy was the foundation of the wildly successful New Mexico Soil Health Bill that passed with a landslide of support from both Republicans and Democrats.
In Andhra Pradesh, India, half a million farmers have adopted Zero Budget Natural Farming–due to the emergent strategies that came out of women’s self-help groups and farmer-to-farmer peer learning groups. They are on target to turn the entire state into a natural farming region within the next five years.
Plants, fungi, microbes, and animals (and sometimes humans) manage landscapes through emergent strategies as they sense changes, adapt, create new systems and structures, and learn together as a community of practice. The new film The Biggest Little Farm shows many beautiful examples of this.
We will learn from these and from participants’ own examples.
An interrelated theme this year is communication: how do we talk to others about what we know? How do we set up meetings and conferences and learning groups that build working relationships and inspire ongoing learning and action?
We will look at why some narratives, facilitation styles, and methods of communication create fear, conflict, and feelings of dis-empowerment that result in stagnation. And we will explore and practice narratives, facilitation practices, and communication styles that create close working relationships, flexible thinking, and emergent strategies (rather than rigid rules), to bring diverse people together towards common aims.
Throughout the four days together, we will dive deeply into the principles at work in vibrant communities of practice (above and below ground) that create livable climates and landscapes that provide health and resilience for all the species that live within them.
We will share our projects (both successful and not-so-successful), our vision of what is possible, look at what stops us and what keeps us inspired, and allow space for new emergent strategies to develop.
Since it’s well known that our minds work best when we can relax together, as well as work together, we will spend our mornings and evenings learning and working together, and the afternoons will be devoted to relaxed conversation and simply “being” together—with a big buffet lunch and time for sitting by the water, walks, swimming, boating, (even a round of golf if that appeals to anyone!).
We are also offering a hands-on, experiential soil workshop with Didi Pershouse, Walter Jehne, and Cat Buxton at a local farm on Wednesday afternoon, from 1pm to 5pm called “Understanding the Soil Sponge and Green Stormwater Infrastructure.”
The ‘Healthy Soil, Healthy Region’ Workshop is a region-wide approach to bring together agricultural
professionals and producers from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho for a 3-day workshop to improve
awareness of existing, new, and evolving regional soil health practices and assessment methods. The
workshop will provide hands-on training on soil health practices, improve understanding of the practical
barriers producers face when implementing soil health practices, and increase familiarity with tools that
can be used by producers to make decisions related to soil health. We will also strive to get the various
groups working on soil health in the region on the same page regarding sampling protocols, method
selection, and the current state of the science.
The Western Colorado Soil Health Conference is designed to educate producers, government officials, and the broad community about ways to increase organic matter in, and the health of, our soils through cover crops, green manure, grazing, compost, entomology, and other sustainable practices. These practices are showing long term benefits in improved quality and cost of production.
4th Annual Soil Health Workshop or Southern Utah. Bringing national and local farmers practicing soil health principles. Guest speakers including Rick Bieber and Marlon Winger.
4th Annual Soil Health Workshop for Central Utah. Bringing together national and local farmers using soil health principles. Guest speakers include Rick Bieber and Marlon Winger
4th Annual Soil Health Workshop for Northern Utah. Gust speakers include Rick Bieber and Marlon Winger. Come join us for a day of sharing knowledge and experiences with soil health principles
The SDSHC’s vision is a collective effort to increase sustainable agriculture production through diversification and improved soil health. Many educational events are held throughout South Dakota by the coalition yearly. Conference attendees can expect educational-packed topics focused on rejuvenating and maintaining healthy soil ecosystems by several regional and nationally known speakers. Anyone involved in agriculture is encouraged to attend. Networking with event presenters and other producers is encouraged. Any questions about the upcoming event can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional information can be found at: www.sdsoilhealthcoalition.org/annual-meeting