National Farm Viability Conference covers opportunities for farmers to incorporate regenerative agricluture

Updated: Oct. 25, 2019 at 6:21 PM CDT
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RED WING, Minn. (KEYC) — The National Farm Viability Conference held this week in Red Wing brought around 300 attendees from more than 30 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.

Agriculture service providers and professionals sat in on several sessions including a discussion about adopting innovative climate strategies.

The three-day conference spent previous years in Vermont and New York but spent 2019 in Red Wing, Minnesota.

Agriculture service providers and professionals tackled business and financial tolls in the agriculture industries, including how they can better serve their clients on the implementation of regenerative agriculture.

“Whether that’s in relation to water quality, the carbon cycle and how it all ties back to farm profitability and productivity and helping the farm figure out how to pull all those pieces together,” said Kent Solberg, livestock and grazing specialist for the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

“Bringing back the windbreaks, bringing back the snow fences, bringing back the trees that really drink a lot of water for us, but also decrease the harshness on our crops, which is also government-funded,” said Lindsay Rebhan, co-owner of Ecological Design.

Livestock grazing was also discussed as a viable option to reduce soil erosion, maintain or improve water quality and increase productivity and profitability on the farm.

“We do have a lot of financial data showing that the longer those animals are out grazing, the cheaper our feed production costs are and the cheaper our manure handling costs are and that often doesn’t enter into the discussion,” said Solberg.

Agriculture service providers discussed how they can meet farmers where they’re at and benefit their operation.

“We call them baby steps sometimes, or little steps, that a person can make to move in that direction that are less scary, less perceived risk involved and it may not violate some of the farmers’ values and challenge some of those values and yet still get them moving down this path of a more regenerative, more profitable and more productive agricultural system,” said Solberg.

Rebhan said that Minnesota is a leader in regenerative agriculture.

“I hope that other states can learn from what we have. A lot of different people at the conference don’t have that situation in their state and being able to look to Minnesota as a leader in soil health and water quality is really important,” said Rebhan.

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