Regenerative Agriculture and Cover Crops were Highlights of Annual Farming Conference

Conservation Technician Colleen Forestieri introduces keynote speaker Gabe Brown at the Van Buren Conservation District’s annual Farming for the Future Conference in Lawrence. Brown, a North Dakota farmer,  discussed how he has employed regenerative agriculture practices on his farm. 	Photo courtesy of  Van Buren Conservation District

    LAWRENCE - More than 230 local agricultural producers came together at the Van Buren Conservation District’s annual “Farming for the Future” conference on March 10 to learn about regenerative agriculture, plant sap analysis, compost, soil health, diversifying grain crops, pasture management, and more. Nationally recognized North Dakota farmer and rancher Gabe Brown gave the keynote address, discussing regenerative agriculture and farming in nature’s image.
    “I’m going to share with you the journey my family and I have been on the past 25-plus years,” Brown told the audience. “I am not here to tell you how you should or shouldn’t run your operation. Only you can determine that. I’m simply here to share my story with you.”
    He spoke about how he began using regenerative agriculture principles on his farm. “In 1994 I sold all my tillage equipment and I’ve been zero till ever since,” said Brown. “We also added peas to the rotation to fix nitrogen. I was trying to think of ways to diversify my crop rotation and take advantage of these synergies of nature. “Why do we, as farmers, insist on purchasing our nitrogen when all you have to do is plant legumes, or provide the home and habitat for the nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil?”
    “He inspired us to think about working with – not against – nature to improve our farming practices and our bottom line,” said Conservation Technician Colleen Forestieri. As Brown said, “It’s for future generations. My generation has unfortunately taken the soil ecosystem in the wrong direction. It’s up to us to regenerate it. Your farm, your ranch, is a direct reflection of you. Do with it what you want, but trust me: you can convert dirt to soil.”
    Van Buren Conservation District staff also discussed cost-share programs that can offer funding to farmers to try conservation practices on their fields. Practices like no-till, buffer strips, grass waterways and cover crops may be eligible for cost-share in certain areas.
    For more information about practices and cost-share opportunities, contact the Van Buren Conservation District, (269) 657-4030 x 5. A video of Gabe Brown’s full keynote address is available online at

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