6th Annual Soil Health Clinic – Sikeston, MO (December 18, 2019)

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The Missouri Delta Soil Health Alliance and the USDA is hosting this one day soil health clinic where Adam Chappell and myself, will be presenting information focused on soil health.  I do apologize for my late posting but… if you’re in the area it would be lovely to have you join in at this event!

Adam and his brother farm 8K+ acres using cover crop mixes in Cotton Plant, AR.  He has extensive knowledge and first hand experience on how cover crops change soil health and increase soil and plant fertility.  I am particularly fond of his view that the most dangerous phrase in our language is “We’ve always done it this way”.  That being said, he is constantly pushing the envelope to try new approaches to farming AND he shares his knowledge.   I am looking forward to making his acquaintance and learning from him in just two days time!

I will be discussing the below ground world pertaining to the soil food web  (what is it and why should you care about it?)  and agronomic approaches that encourage/discourage soil food web diversity and function.  I’ll talk about plant fertility and disease resistance and what farmers and scientists are finding when the soil food web is encouraged to thrive.

See you Wednesday!

Hungarian Soil Health Conference 2019

Yep, like the title says, I am representing HER and Montana State University (MSU) at the Soil Health Conference in Hungary starting next week!  If you are in the area please to join this incredible group of people.  There will be two days of farm visits, a full day workshop with Joel Williams, and a conference day packed with speakers from all over the world.  This is the 3rd year of the conference and it is quite popular and has gained positive reviews.

I am speaking in the Organic Matter section of the event and have been asked to speak about compost tea.  I will do that! I hope to see you there!  Below are some images from my first trip to Hungary 6 years ago! I have been back every year (-1) since and certainly look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

The Soil Crawl/Compost Exchange was stellar!

Hi everybody!  Check out the below article that was written up about our Compost and Soil Exchange Event at the SAR (See pg 7).  Joe and I had a great time organizing with the Northern Plains Resource Council to host this well attended event.  Our participants were from all over MT and one even popped down from Canada.  We received great feedback from everyone and it seems that the farm tour was helpful but the next step will be a hands-on event.  Joe Barta and I are discussing how to arrange this to satisfy the home gardeners, market gardeners and farmers that were represented at this event.

We discussed basic principals of composting and how the soil food web can be a tool in the NGP (awaiting the proof in that pudding).  We toured all the compost and liquid biological operations on the SAR, including: windrow composting, inoculate composting, brewing, extracting and seeding with liquid biologicals.  We also took a saunter through a 60-acre field where we have 5-acre test strips of 11 different treatments.  On a visual basis, the treatments were very different.  I will have some data to show in the next several weeks regarding the cover crop biomass/treatment.

Anyhow, here is an article that was authored by Connlee Gray and published in the Fort Benton, MT River Press newspaper about the event we hosted. Follow the link and scroll down to pg 7 to read about our gig.   River_Press_07_31_2019

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Sandy Arrow Ranch Field Day with the Northern Plains Resource Council

Want to take a deeper dive into soil health, understand what’s happening in your soil, and how to measure it from home?

The 2019 Soil Crawl will get down and dirty with soil monitoring on Friday, July 19th at the Sandy Arrow Ranch near Geraldine.  Join Molly Haviland and Joe Barta for a full day tour and conversation about how they build and use compost on their operation near Geraldine. Bring a container  of your  favorite soil or compost.  (max. two  5-gal. buckets) We will combine the group’s contributions.  Your container will be refilled with regional microbes.  You could brew it, use it to inoculate your composts or gardens or coat your seeds before planting… the options are endless.

Northern Plains’ 3rd Annual Soil Crawl
Friday, July 19th
9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Sandy Arrow Ranch
Geraldine, MT

Cost: $30 for Adults, $20 for students (includes lunch).
Current Northern Plains members just $25.
Register today! Prices go up on July 15th.

*Please bring plenty of water, a chair, and clothes for any conditions. 

For questions and additional information (including driving directions), contact Maggie at (406) 248-1154 or email maggie@northernplains.org.

Space is limited so make sure you register soon to reserve your spot!

Click Here to Reserve your spot.

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Grazing Workshop Coming Your Way!

I musts apologize that I did not post this sooner.  However, it’s likely that if you want to attend, a late RSVP is better than no RSVP.  This day will include land monitoring approaches to better understand how to improve land management practices.  We will explore the soil monitoring that has taken place on Montana Highland Lamb’s ranch and how productive pastures have been developed through grazing rotation and elimination of synthetic fertilizers.  See you there!

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HER presenting with Neal Kinsey in Hamilton, New Zealand Hosted by Kiwi Fertilizer June 24-26, 2019

What a great event this one’s gonna be.  If you’re near or far and need a skip across the pond to learn about soils, plants and animals, Kiwi Fertilizer is a very good host and brings together great teachers.  The teachers are in the seats as much as they are on the stand.   This is an opportunity for a truly enriching experience.

I recall my last trip there where I met wonderful producers with the highest integrity for nutrient dense food production.  I also met more female farm owners than I ever had.  There was also that one time, driving past a vineyard where there were what looked to be lambs grazing in the vineyard, but they were full grown sheep, pigmy sheep, that had been bred to stay small for the very purpose of grazing the rows between the vines.  What’s good with a glass of wine?  Grass fed sheep.

Day 1
Neal Kinsey Ca, Mg, K & Na balancing the major cations and the relevance of pH to soil health.

Day 2
Neal Kinsey Phosphate, focusing on the Myth of the Olsen P test compared to Bray II that the Perry Lab uses to determine P Levels.

Tim Williams (Australia) Fully feeding ruminant animals on the Albrecht Kinsey soils program for supreme health, re-production and quality. 9.00 a.m. > 2 .00 pm.

Molly Haviland (US) Understanding the Soil Food web 2.00 p.m. > 4.30 p.m.

Panel Discussion Q & A 4.30 p.m. > 5.30 p.m. Neal Kinsey, Tim Williams and Molly Haviland.

Day 3

Gavin Clements: Selecting pasture species for diverse pastures that work well with the Albrecht / Kinsey soils program. 8.00 a.m. > 9.00 a.m.

Steve McKenzie: Marlborough Wine grape, Lucerne and beef farmer with over twenty years history on the Albrecht / Kinsey program. 9.00 a.m. > 10.00 a.m.

David Law: The effect of Soil pH on effluent crusting in ponds and the effects of balancing Ca – Mg – K – Na Cations to improve animal health issues. 10.30 a.m. > 11.30 p.m.

Jeremy Casey: Back Track Dairies, Methven Trial; Whakapono Albrecht Kinsey program – Waiora Lincoln University Best Practice NPK program. 11.30 a.m. > 12.30 p.m.

Evan Smeath: Dairy farming in Northland, Jersey cow breeder, The benefits of investing in and growing great crops, the effects of farming with flooding and droughts. 1.30 p.m. > 2.30 p.m.

Leanna Birch: Regenerate NZ. Comprehensive Farm Environmental Planning 2.30 p.m. > 3.30 p.m

Panel Discussions Q & A with all speakers 4.00 p.m. > 5.30 p.m.

For more info or to book, contact Ron Mc Lean on 0800 549 433

Registration Individual $750.00 + GST Couples $1400.00 + GST, Single Day $300.00 + GST

http://www.kiwifertiliser.co.nz

 

Kelsey Anne Juanita Haviland 1981-2018

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Like you cannot plant seeds in sterile soil, you cannot grow without getting some residue on you, without some of the nutrients or compounds of the earth that bore you. You cannot cut and run from your past.  You are a living, breathing piece of it.  Born from it.  Proud product of it.  You did not get here on your own.  You were not born in a vacuum.  You were not brought here by a stork.  You cannot claim total independence. “

-Author Unknown

Last year, on this day, my 36 year old sister died.  She had been Type I diabetic since the age of 9.  In the last years of her life she was on antibiotics for all kinds of reasons but the “primary” culprit was Clostridium difficile (C. diff) that would show it’s ugly face time and time again.  Interestingly enough this antibiotic resistant bacteria is treated with antibiotics and thus the cycle fed into itself because C. diff is rarely ousted from the body, especially those that are in hospitals regularly for treatment.  Kelsey wasted away for many reasons, a foundation to her slow disappearance over 3 years stood in the empty belly that was her own, she could not assimilate nutrients.  It makes sense right? I don’t have to explain to you that 90% of the cells in your body are actually microbial.  Click on that pink link.  I dare you.  When antibiotics are administered for the majority of 3 years, as in Kelsey’s case, there isn’t much a body can assimilate because the crews of decomposers that live in the mouth, gut and intestines, not to mention the ones that create the castle wall of protection (sound familiar?) on our dermal layers have been reduced to what can survive the antibiotics (not incredible diversity there).  I had a long conversation with one of her doctors about fecal transplants the response was, “She is too fragile and it could be dangerous”.   Oh, I see more dangerous than what’s happening now?  I’m not buying it.  Shame on you doctor! Fecal transplants are 95% effective in treating C. diff.

When I would visit Kels,  I’d bring her my best Compost.  The woods were a long way away from the hospital and in her last days, it was rare that she could get out due to quarantine.  I brought it for her to experience the smell and softness of the woods.  To be grounded.  To touch a world containing potentials we have yet to fathom. Containing mysteries beyond those that reside on the moon.  Potential.  She would open the package, breathe in deeply… sigh… she would wipe the product on her hands, face and then she would become like a child or animal in the forest that was starved for minerals or something.  It went up her nose, in her ears…she ate it.  Op! Um.  Well.  Okay.  

Kelsey told me that for about three days after ingesting the Compost she would feel nourished after eating.  Her digestion was better and more controlled.  Then, the antibiotics would kick in again.  I’d be away for a few weeks or a month.  We’d start over again.

It’s a weird thing.  My Dad was Type I diabetic and both of my older sisters also became Type I.  We ate well when I was growing up.  Venison and trout were our primary meat sources.  Sure, living in remote national parks made it hard to access the quality dairy and greens.  I can assure you that snickers, chips, soda, cereal of any kind (no cheerios, nothing), was a long 2 hours on a washboard dirt road away from our cupboards.

What is happening here?  Just as there is no silver bullet for agriculture there is no silver bullet for human health.  We are incredibly complex, dynamic and ever-changing ecosystems.  Here’s my two pennies, for whatever that is worth, destroying diversity is killing resiliency.  Diversity is our ally and shoo do we need an allegiance right now.

What is the point of putting all of the energy (time, research, fuel, mining landscapes and ecosystem services) towards  growing food when it lacks in the ability to satisfy the requirements of what our bodies and animal bodies truly need to thrive?  People are not starving because there isn’t enough food, they are starving due to a lack of distribution of food and nutrients within the food. Something is happening.  You know it. I know it.  It’s in the air.  It’s in the water.  It is and is not in our “feed”.  It’s in the fact that 40% of the American population is obese (different from overweight).  This means more diabetics and very expensive, painful and slow deaths of our loved ones.  It’s hard to be left here with the memories of how my Dad and Kelsey died.  My Father’s decay went on for 20 years.  Kelsey’s went on for 10.

Essential nutrients are not being assimilated and are not in food in the way they used to be (related paper).  Can we, as consumers, PLEASE drive the market to quality and throw the concept of quantity out the door?  That day is coming but Lord have mercy for the slow march, I am tired of my family dying.

I am not blaming any one person or industry for what’s happening.  For the most part, we are all participating in it.  But please, if you’ve made it this far in my rant,  remember that diversity is essential and diseases are indicators of a system out of balance.  Diversity can appear to be hard to manage on many levels because each diverse organism has it’s own habits and preferences that play out in a dance, dash or thrash.  The dynamic interplay in these processes make the world go round.

This one’s for you Kels.

P.S.  If you eat Compost, I take zero ownership over the benefits or consequences of your choice.

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A New Year: Refining the Vision

Dear All,

Welcome to 2019! I hope this message finds you and yours in health, wealth and happiness.

This is going to be a year of major growth for me.  I will have to manage my time and priorities exquisitely, as I am beginning a Master’s in Land Rehabilitation at Montana State University.  My goal is to roll it into a PhD in short order but there is much to learn before that can happen.  This blog is a way for me to refine my writing skills and share with you my findings along the way.

Since autumn of 2016 I have been working on The Sandy Arrow Ranch (SAR), outside of Geraldine, Montana.  This region, known as The Golden Triangle, is primarily dryland wheat and cattle country.  Pulses such as chickpea, lentil, pea and bean are making their debut.  A common farming practice in this region is to grow wheat, and either leave or till the stubble in after harvest and apply herbicide to keep weeds back.  The rotation being: one year wheat, one year “chemfallow”.  There are many reasons for this type of practice, one being to recharge the ground water for growing wheat.  The Golden Triangle receives about 13 – 16 inches (33- 41 cm) of precipitation annually.  In 2017, the SAR received roughly 5 inches (13 cm) of precipitation!  That was a tough year indeed.

So, how does one produce organic winter wheat in dryland country while building a healthy soil?  How do we nourish the world, not feed the world?  Can we enhance the system to be productive for those drought and deluge years?  Well, that’s what we’ve been exploring at the SAR.  We have had, what I would consider to be some hardcore failures, which is to say, we have been learning.

The mission of SAR is to establish soil health while growing the highest quality annual grains and pulses.  Our goal is to establish regenerative farming techniques that are effective, affordable and streamlined for the greater farming community in the Golden Triangle of Montana.  The integration of Compost and Compost derivatives (Compost tea & Compost extract), mineral balancing of soils, annual cover cropping systems, tillage and mob grazing constitute the regenerative agriculture approaches that have been taking place on eleven test sites since 2016.

The SAR dove into no-till organic production using a multi-specie, low-growing perennial understory plant mix in 2016 (alsiki clover, ladino white clover, cicer milkvetch, norcen trefoil, small burnet and fringed sage).  The idea was to no-till drill our crop of choice into the understory.  The instruction was that this would be fine to do because, when the biology is balanced there is a sharing of nutrients and water, not competition.  Maybe this can be true, eventually.  But our compost production was new and we had many challenges with water and management in the compost yard, our field organic matter averaged 1- 2%.  This method, in conjunction with the 5 inches (13 cm) total precip drought in 2017 resulted in poor understory establishment and SEVERE weed competition. From 2016- 2018, our various Compost applications were not effective in reducing weed populations at the SAR.  I look forward to an in-depth discussion of that in a future post.

While tillage has become part of the weed control management strategy again, no-till organic crop production remains a high bar the SAR has every intention of reaching.  A strategic approach in that direction is to employ intensive cool season and warm season cover cropping, tillage and mob grazing techniques to increase soil organic matter, feed the nutrient cyclers (micro and macrobial creatures), develop aggregate stability and provide plant available nitrogen for the 2019 planting of winter wheat.  Below is a table describing the 2019 proposed various field management strategies where we will be  using differing rates and combinations of Compost, Compost tea and Compost extract.

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The windrow Compost production at the SAR has stopped due to limited access of quality water.  To continue the field tests that will require 500 tons of solid Compost input, the SAR will need to purchase Compost from offsite, those sources are being confirmed for quality and compliance with the organic certifying agency.  The low-cost, low-energy input production of vermicast and BEAM compost methods are continuing to produce a high quality biological inoculate (more on that in a later post).  These methods will be refined and expanded on in 2019.

Calculations for applications of Compost tea and Compost extract show that a total 35,200 gallons of water will be needed and a plan for accessing water in a cost-effective way will need to be determined.  We do have rain catchment that allows us access to good water, all dependent on what falls from the sky and lands on our shop roof.  Since 2016, Haviland Earth Regeneration (HER) has tested the fields of focus twice annually.  Extensive data has been accumulated and deserves to be beautifully archived in a database that is meant to house and relay scientific findings. Come spring, that data will be in a format that will tell the story of these fields through numbers and can be called upon by the scientific community for future research.  Field health test methods have not changed since 2017 and will be described in future posts as well.  A new test field is being added into the SAR fields of focus, this is where my master’s research will be taking place.  That information will become available to you all in a matter of months.

When it comes to exploring the efficacy of Compost and Compost derivatives in dryland wheat production, the United States has released few publications. Furthermore, the published research exploring the uses of these products that contains data regarding the microbial communities in the product and how it impacts the plant or soil ecology should be expanded upon.  Together, the SAR, HER and MSU will contribute valuable information to the agricultural and scientific community regarding the transformation of “waste” into a Compost resource, how that Compost grows nutrient dense winter wheat and pulses and how the soil health is enhanced in Montana’s dryland farming systems.

***Compost is capitalized in these documents to refer to a product that contains a diverse microbial community beyond the standard bacterial dominated compost products.

 

Soil Crawl With Northern Plains Resource Council

The 2018 Soil Crawl will get down and dirty with soil monitoring on Saturday, October 13 at Steve Charter’s Ranch, north of Billings. Join soil experts Tony HartshornMolly Haviland, and Bill Milton for an interactive soil demonstration where you’ll learn how to use everyday tools to measure what’s happening under your feet!

Northern Plains’ 2nd Annual Soil Crawl
Saturday, October 13
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Steve Charter’s Ranch 
13838 U.S. Highway 87 N

Cost: $30 for Adults, $20 for students (includes lunch)

*Please bring plenty of water, a chair, and clothes for any conditions. 

For questions and additional information (including driving directions), contact Maggie at (406) 248-1154 or email maggie@northernplains.org.

Space is limited so make sure you register soon to reserve your spot!

To register, follow this link: https://northernplains.org/event/soil-crawl/

 

Change of Address for tonight’s (9-13-18) Meet & Greet

My apologies for sending this out to the whole works of you, but… ya gotta do what you gotta do.  If you are planning on coming to the September 14, 2018 Compost Exchange meet & greet dinner tonight from 6-8 pm.  Come to Ron & Judy’s Restaurant and Lounge 28603 Hwy 55 Paynesville, MN 56362 Phone: 320-243-2469.  We are ready for you all!  Safe travels!