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Michigan’s Van Buren CD highlights regenerative agriculture and cover crops at annual farming conference

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By Erin Fuller

Conservation Technician Colleen Forestieri introduces keynote speaker Gabe Brown.

On March 10, over 230 local agricultural producers came together at the Van Buren Conservation District (CD)’s annual “Farming for the Future” conference in Michigan, to learn about various topics, including regenerative agriculture, plant sap analysis, compost, soil health, diversifying grain crops and pasture management. Nationally recognized North Dakota farmer and rancher Gabe Brown (pictured) 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,” said Brown. “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.”

Brown also 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,” he said. “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 CD 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 CD at (269) 657-4030 ext. 5.

A video of Gabe Brown’s full keynote address is available online at https://vanburencd.org/gabe-brown/.

Tags: Soil Health

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