Jeff and Myrna GoebelBelen, NM

Jeff and Myrna Goebel

Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District

Belen, New Mexico

Jeff and Myrna Goebel are inspirations to others both on and off their farm. Both are members of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District, with Jeff serving as a board member and Myrna as an associate board member. Jeff is an award-winning consultant for consensus building, conflict resolution and sustainable solutions. His master’s thesis focused on the Integrated Resource Management Process he lead at the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The Goebels have owned their two-acre farm for four years and, due to their off-farm consulting, do not rely on it generate profit. They have dedicated their farm to growing pollinator plants and capturing carbon, instead, investing their efforts to practice and model this important work.

They follow the five principles of soil health: 1) keep soil covered, 2) promote living roots as long as possible, 3) support plant diversity, 4) minimize tillage and 5) integrate livestock. Jeff says they focus on principles, instead of practices, because practices take the thinking and observing out of decision-making. One of the biggest lessons they are continuing to learn, he says, is “how important it is to listen to the land when making decisions.”

The Goebels do not use any fossil fuels around their farm, except for transportation and heating. They either do the work themselves or borrow 13 goats to assist with activities such as managing plants. The goats also help plant seeds, such as their eight-species winter cover crop mixture. Their 14 micro-solar panels provide all their electrical needs, including the electricity to pump their drip irrigation. The couple also planted windbreaks on their land to slow winds, cool the land and promote wildlife. With use of Myrna’s landscape design background, the couple created a pond that further enhanced their farm’s beauty and diversity, while facilitating the desert’s most crucial resource – water.

Their practices have greatly improved species diversity in the area. Their vegetation is inhabited by many praying mantises, walking sticks, spiders and ladybugs. The milkweed they planted has increased the presence of Monarch butterflies, a species that has difficulty in their region.

Jeff believes that the main challenges to the adoption of soil health practices are fear, including peer pressure and failure, and limiting beliefs. They hope that other farmers will learn, experiment, listen to their soil and, one day, implement these practices as well.

Updated July 2019.

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