Farmers Find Community at the 2019 Conservation Cropping Seminars

By: Liz Rupel

What an incredible three days at the Conservation Cropping Seminars in Mendota, Springfield, and O’Fallon! The planning committee really stepped it up this year and invited author David Montgomery and soil health expert Ray Archuleta to give inspiring speeches to three separate crowds of around 150 people. David and Ray dove under the surface into the soil health issues that are rocking the agriculture world, while also lifting up the importance of regenerating our soils to ensure that farmers will be able to pass on their land for the next few generations. Attendees heard from local cover crop farmers whom spoke about their experiences, lessons learned, and offered advice. Hearing a local farmer explain their journey to soil health may make the effort to change seem more relatable than hearing the two of the top national speakers. To further that point, Ray Archuleta explained that the way we make soil health work is by building community: “we need to start a community and encourage folks around us to think the same way; help each other out.” Building that community and relationship with your neighbor can not only get you extra tools when needed (as long as your return them!), but it opens the door to the possibility of one encouraging the other to begin thinking, or as Ray would say, “changing your mindset” about incorporating conservation practices, like cover crops.

David Montgomery left us with a big to-do, “the big project of this century is restoring our soil. It is not only good for the environment, but it’s good for farmers.” We at the Alliance believe that is possible and we know that there are already numerous dedicated individuals regenerating and telling their story.

David will be writing his fourth book that he plans to title“What Your Food Ate” which will look at connections between soil health and human health and how using more regenerative practices can grow more nutrient rich foods. This book is still in the works, but if you would like to check out his other three, we highly encourage you to! Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations; Growing a Revolution: Bringing our Soils Back to Life; and The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health.

Ray Archuletta speaks to a room full of farmers at the “Dirt Rich Dinner” hosted by Illinois Stewardship Alliance on the night of the first Conservation Cropping Seminar. The dinner was another opportunity for farmers to come together, discuss their shared struggles and successes, and support each other in their goal of revitalizing their communities and ecosystems through soil health.