SWCD presenting on soil health at events

Published 8:12 am Thursday, February 22, 2018

By Tim Ruzek

Mower County SWCD

Making cover crops work for a beef operation will be detailed Friday at a free workshop in Adams led by the 2017 Cover Crop Champion farmers for Mower County.

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As part of several upcoming events focused on soil health, Tom Cotter and Tom Finnegan, who both raise crops and run cow-calf operation just outside of Austin, are continuing their outreach efforts on cover crops and soil health by offering a two-hour talk “Cows, Calves and Cover Crops” from 10 a.m. to noon at the Adams American Legion Post 146 club along Minnesota State Highway 56. Free food will be provided afterward to attendees.

Last year, Cotter and Finnegan did extensive outreach under a Cover Crop Champion grant awarded to Mower Soil and Water Conservation District by the National Wildlife Federation. Cover crops are a second, unharvested crop planted in coordination with regular cash crops, such as corn and soybeans.

Cotter, a fourth-generation farmer, raises corn, soybeans, peas, sweet corn and alfalfa as well as runs a cow/calf beef operation on his Austin Township farm. In 2016, Cotter and his father, Michael, were Mower SWCD’s Outstanding Conservationists of the Year and were certified through the state’s Ag Certainty water-quality program.

Finnegan, a third-generation livestock producer in Red Rock Township, is a full-time electrician who runs a cow/calf beef operation while in recent years also has grown corn and soybeans. In 2007, he and his father, George, were Mower SWCD’s Outstanding Conservationists of the Year.

Mower SWCD’s Steve Lawler, a soil scientist, will be on hand to discuss the local soil-health initiative and cover crop research project. Lawler is preparing this spring to start a three-year research project on cover crops and other soil-health practices, such as no till and strip till, on dozens of plots in Mower County. That project is funded by a $98,000 grant from The Hormel Foundation and is expected to involve students and faculty from the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and Riverland Community College in Austin.

Soil health also will be the focus of presentations by Mower SWCD staff and Cotter on Feb. 27 at Riverland Community College’s Agriculture Summit at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Austin. Lawler will join Cotter in leading a panel breakout session that afternoon on soil health and cover crops. Mower SWCD district manager Justin Hanson also will give a short talk during lunch on the ongoing work by the SWCD staff and Cedar River Watershed District with local farmers and ag landowners.

With the theme “Agriculture Renewed,” the summit led by Riverland’s Center for Agriculture & Food Science Technology is free of charge but attendees must register by noon Friday, Feb. 23, via the Riverland homepage at www.riverland.edu.

Mower SWCD and Riverland also are partnering with the Land Stewardship Project to bring Ray Archuleta, also known as “The Soil Guy,” for a free workshop March 28 at Riverland’s west campus in Austin. Archuleta retired in 2017 after 30 years as a USDA-NRCS soil conservationist, conservation agronomist and water-quality specialist in New Mexico, Missouri, Oregon and North Carolina. He’s now a soil-health consultant who operates a 150-acre farm in Missouri and gives presentations on soil health.

While in Minnesota, Archuleta also will give longer workshops for $20 each from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 27 in Lewiston; March 28 in Faribault; and March 29 in Kasson – a farm panel also will be part of those three events. Land Stewardship Project in Lewiston is taking registration for those workshops.