Soil health is critical to the productivity of the local agricultural industry and to the quality of the surrounding watershed. To help producers learn how to improve their soil, Delta County Economic Development, Inc. has taken the lead in bringing experts to the Western Slope to directly share their experiences.
The third annual Western Slope Soil Health Conference will take place this week in Delta at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center. The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24, and is free to all.
The two-day conference features an impressive array of speakers who will bring first-hand experience of how healthy soil is important to their operations. Healthy soil is teeming with life and activity. It is rich in organic matter, insects, earthworms, air, water and nutrients. Healthy soil improves crop quality and yield along with reducing objectionable field runoffs such as salts, nitrates and selenium.
The speakers include Brendon Rockey of Rockey Farms in Center, John Diener of Red Rock Ranch in California, and National Resource Conservation Service experts Rudy Garcia, NRCS-New Mexico, Jay Fuhrer, NRCS-North Dakota, and Mike Collins, NRCS-Alamosa.
Brendon Rockey is a third-generation potato farmer from Center. He, along with his brother, raises 250 acres of specialty potatoes for both certified seed sales and for the fresh market. Rockey Farms has always been known for its innovation and leadership. They continue to redefine how potatoes can be raised. By focusing on the soil's health, they have been able to maintain yield, drastically improve the quality of the crop, and they have done it all while decreasing the inputs that are required to grow the crop. They no longer use any commercial fertilizer and they have eliminated their dependency on toxic chemicals. Their farm has become a regular stop for soil health tours, as they believe strongly in sharing the knowledge they have gained.
John Diener grew up working on his father's and uncle's farms in Five Points, a small farming community on the westside of Fresno County in California. He now farms both conventional and organic crops in the same area, and has extensive experience in conservation and reclamation efforts. He developed a pilot integrated on-farm drainage management protype in 1985 and continues to refine the program. By tiling saline land and recycling water through a series of fields, farmers can reclaim land, harvest runoff water, produce marketable crops, and ultimately mine salts for commercial use. As such, it turns a regional problem into a resource — productively contributing to the health and integrity of the water systems.
Rudy Garcia has been with NRCS for 23 years. For the first 12 years, he worked on two special projects — the Elephant Butte Irrigation District Water Conservation Project and the Water Quality Demonstration Project. The work included evaluation of various types of irrigation, fertility demonstrations, evaluations of manure, compost and gypsum for the management of salinity and sodium, as well as much work on soil health.
For the past seven years, Garcia has worked as the state agronomist in New Mexico, with a technical emphasis on applying soil health principles, and bringing the resources of the agency — education and conservation partners — to help producers.
Jay Fuhrer is a conservationist employed by the NRCS in Bismarck, N.D. When working with Burleigh County produceers, Fuhrer emphasizes soil health as a foundation for cropping systems, grazing systems, livestock integration and cover crops. Jay's interest in soil health has resulted in numerous speaking engagements within the U.S., and also Canada, France and Russia.
Mike Collins is an area conservationist for the NRCS in Alamosa. He works with employees, partners and landowners to plan and implement a wide range of conservation practices on private lands throughout southwest Colorado.
There will also be producer panels discussing topics such as cover crops, companion crops, composting, cowboy mix and "Connecting all the dots for success!"
In addition there will be vendor displays to help producers learn about some of the innovative products available to help in their operations.
The two-day conference is free and includes free lunch each day, served by Daveto's and C&J's Cafe.blog comments powered by Disqus