By Beth Mason
In 2014, NACD received a three-year NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to promote the adoption of soil health practices across the United States. The grant has two parts:
- First, NACD partnered with Datu Research to conduct four case studies on soil health management practices on Midwestern farms. This research will help make the environmental and economic case for conservation practices like cover crops.
- To fulfill the objectives of the second component of the CIG, NACD developed a comprehensive outreach plan for soil health, which included establishing the NACD Soil Health Champions Network.
Today, the Soil Health Champions Network is made up of over 150 landowners and land managers based in 37 states. These early adopters of soil conservation tools actively use practices like cover crops, intensive rotational grazing, no-till, strip till, and diverse crop rotation to improve the quality and productivity of their soils. Soil Health Champions also conduct outreach of their own among their peers and within their communities to communicate the benefits of adopting soil health practices.
NACD staff began recruiting Soil Health Champions to the network in 2015 with the assistance of state associations and individual conservation districts. NACD sent out a “Call for Soil Health Champions” to identify the nation’s top stewards and within days, the Network started to take shape.
Soil Health Champions have two responsibilities to the Network. They are asked to (1) continue doing outreach for soil health in their communities in whichever way works best for them, and (2) report on those activities to NACD at least twice a year. Champs also have a working relationship with their local conservation district, which can lend a great deal of assistance in their outreach efforts, and are encouraged to partner with their state associations to identify other local advocates for soil health.
In many ways, Soil Health Champions are the “face” of soil health in their communities, their states, and their regions. You can find profiles on NACD’s Soil Health Champions and detailed information on their roles and responsibilities on our website.
NACD is committed to supporting the SHC Network and its activities well beyond the grant period. NACD holds educational conference calls for champions, provides funding for champs to attend topical meetings, distributes a quarterly bulletin on the Network and soil health trends, and manages a Facebook group where members can share pictures, videos, articles, and updates on their extraordinary work to improve America’s soils.
Our 2017 New Year’s goal is to recruit a champion from every state and U.S. territory. At NACD, we believe the value of healthy soils touches everyone – even the folks in states where a champion hasn’t yet been recognized. Would you or someone you know like to be a part of our Soil Health Champions Network? Contact NACD North Central Region Representative Beth Mason by email or by phone (317-946-4463). You can help us reach our 2017 goal!