farming soil study

One of the farmers profiled in the case studies is Carmen Fernholz, who uses cover crops to reduce soil compaction, fix nitrogen, and enhance soil microbes at his farm in Madison, Minnesota.

Farmers can turn to a new set of case studies to learn about the experiences of southwest Minnesota farmers in adopting soil health practices.

University of Minnesota research assistant Kathy Dooley visited farms and interviewed farmers in late 2018 to develop case study profiles of nine farms in southwestern Minnesota. Farmers were selected to participate in the project based on having at least five years of experience incorporating soil health principles into their production practices.

“These case studies should be a real help to farmers who are new to soil health practices, cover crops and livestock,” said Theresa Keaveny, executive director of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. “These farmers’ willingness to share their knowledge provides excellent networking opportunities.”

Farmers interested in adopting new practices to increase soil health and long-term sustainability can use these case studies to learn from others and connect with experienced producers.

The practices described in the case studies include keeping living roots in the soil, keeping the soil covered, using diverse crop rotations and reducing soil disturbance. In addition, many of the participating farms integrate livestock into their systems.

According to Dean Current, program director for the Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management, the university plans to expand our current case studies with additional data and into new farming options such as agroforestry in the future.

The soil health case studies report is available online at In the future, the farm profiles will also be listed in an online database with more detailed information, such as soil test results.

The case studies were developed through a partnership between the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota (SFA), the University of Minnesota Extension’s Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (SWRSDP) and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management (CINRAM). The research project was completed by Kathy Dooley, Research Assistant through the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Rural Affairs (CURA).

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