Soil Health Week

On March 7 – 11, 2022, we saw first-hand that soil is the ultimate connector and has a way of bringing people together.

The first ever Illinois Soil Health Week virtual celebration brought together over 300 registrants, over 30 partners, and 21 presenters covering topics such as the economics of soil health practices, how soil health is connected to human health, and soil health in the city.

If you missed any of those presentations, check out the recording links below.

The Alliance’s Soil Health Farmer Caucus continues to work with state lawmakers to pass Illinois Soil Health Day and Week Resolution (HJR63 & SJR44) to officially recognize the second full week of March, and Wednesday of that week will be Soil Health Day. 

Keep scrolling for the recordings + 2022 agenda + speaker bios + and partners

2022 Soil Health Week

Rick Clark Farm Green Presentation

Rick is a 5th generation organic/regenerative farmer who resides in Warren County, Indiana | Learn about Rick’s 10+ year transition journey and how he farms with nature and saves $$ at the same time | more info about Farm Green


Staying connected, covered, and rooted | Farmer Economic Panel

Farmer and former Deputy Secretary of USDA, Jim Mosley, facilitates a regenerative agriculture panel featuring Jean Brokish, American Farmland Trust (AFT) and three local Illinois Farmers: Frank Rademacher of Champaign County, Lee Curby of Sangamon, and Joe Curless of Mason who will share their perspectives and experiences on building soil health and economic health.


Soil Health Day & Summit

Learn the latest on state issues and innovations that enhance soil health and stewardship of our vital resources. This day is packed with speakers including a welcome from the Resolution Sponsors, Representative Charlie Meier and Senator Scott Bennett and USDA NRCS State Conservationist Ivan Dozier. Attendees will also hear presentations from Illinois NRCS Soil Health Specialist, Stacy Zuber; Illinois Department of Natural Resources Michelle Bloomquist, Bob Caveny, Mike Chandler, Max Webster of American Farmland Trust.


Soil Health Summit Keynote

Peter Lehner, author of Farming for Our Future: The Science, Law, and Policy of Climate-Neutral Agriculture will wrap up the Summit with a Keynote Speech that focuses on the findings in his book.


Regenerative Agriculture and Human Health Nexus: Insights from field to body

Erin Meyer MSFS, RD, Founder and Executive Director, of Basils Harvest take us through her research on The Regenerative Agriculture and Human Health Nexus: insights from field to body 


Soil Health in the City Panel

Join leaders Natasha Nicholes, Founder and Executive Director of We Sow We Grow, Viviana Okakpu, Executive Director of  the Advocates for Urban Agriculture, and Ezra Lee, Farm & Program Coordinator at Growing Home Inc., on a journey through the challenges and opportunities of farming in the City.

Zumwalt Acres | Sequestering Carbon with Rock Weathering

Gavi Welbel, Zumwalt Acres, enhanced rock weathering trials: spreading crushed basalt rock on their fields to increase soil health and capture atmospheric CO2

Meet the Speakers

Rick Clark is a 5th generation farmer from Williamsport, IN. The main goal on the farm is to build soil health and achieve balance with Mother Nature. Rick has developed and is constantly improving a systematic approach to regenerative farming. He is most proud of incorporating regenerative farming practices with all acres being certified organic. He calls it regenerative organic stewardship with no tillage. He will suppress weeds and build soil health with cover crops and no tillage. Rick also cares deeply about human health, as it is another important driver behind the organic no till style of farming. Rick is building a system that will be viable and profitable for generations to come.


Jim Moseley is an Indiana farmer who has served in many local, state and national policy positions, his most recent Senate confirmed position being the Deputy Secretary at the USDA. Moseley has historically played a role in developing public policy for agriculture, the environment, and natural resources conservation at the state and national levels. In this capacity, he provided leadership for the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service on a variety of issues including endangered species, old growth forests, livestock grazing on public lands, wetlands, and policy issues related to the conservation title of the 1990 Farm Bill. The Moseley’s started their farm in 1970 after graduating from Purdue University.  The Moseley’s have utilized their farm as the experimental setting of a variety of new farming concepts over 50 years. He introduced the conservation farming concept in his local geographic area in the early 1970’s, evolving to a full no-till system by 1983.
Read Jim’s Full Bio Here.

Jean Brokish is the Midwest Program Manager for American Farmland Trust where she provides coordination and management support for the Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Partnership and both the Vermilion Headwaters Watershed Group and Upper Macoupin Watershed Group. Before joining AFT, Jean spent 11 years leading conservation and outreach programs for Oahu RC&D, including oversight for multiple watershed implementation projects, on-farm cover crop research, and the building of Hawaii’s Women Farmer Network. Jean grew up on a dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin and enjoys gardening and being outdoors with her family. Jean has a Bachelor of Science in agronomy from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls and a Master of Science in soil science from Purdue University.

“Being born into the Illinois farming life taught me everything I know – the value of hard work, the power of innovation and entrepreneurship, and the reward of working to achieve a common goal. After serving five years in the Marine Corps, and then Graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in Agri-business, I spent the next 10 years working on and managing ranches in Northwest Colorado. My wife and I returned home to the farm in 2015 to start our family, and take over the farming operation from my Dad. My Dad was always very conservation-minded and instilled that mindset in me from an early age. The farm was already well established in no-till and strip-till practices and in the early stages of implementing cover crops, when I returned. Since returning home, I have expanded on those practices, to include cover crops, on every acre I farm. It is important to me that we continue to make best management practices to help improve soil health and be good stewards of the land.”

Bio coming soon!

Frank is from East Central Illinois, where he farms with his father, Eric. They farm about 600 acres, growing corn and soybeans while implementing no-till, high biomass cover crops, crimping, and synthetic input reduction. Frank also works with the Precision Conservation Management, the conservation branch of ICGA. PCM puts economic analysis behind conservation and support our farmers with agronomic support, networking, and funding resources.


Soil Health Day & Summit

Read the Full Agenda Here

Ivan Dozier has been the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s State Conservationist for Illinois since April of 2012. He was raised on his family’s farm in Southern Illinois where they produced grain and cattle. Ivan has a B. S. in Agriculture from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Environmental Studies. He began working for SCS/NRCS in 1983 and has been a County Soil Scientist, Soil Conservationist, District Conservationist, American Indian Liaison and Assistant State Conservationist for Programs. Ivan is also a veteran of the US Army Reserve.

Stacy Zuber grew up on her family farm in southeast Illinois, and that ag background inspired Stacy to return to school to complete her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Crop Sciences from the University of Illinois, where her research focused on assessing the impact of crop rotation and no-till on the soil health of Illinois soils. After completing her graduate work, she conducted post-doctoral research at Purdue University and the University of Missouri-Columbia on projects using on-farm research to evaluate soil health tests and indicators. In 2020, Stacy returned to Illinois as the State Soil Health Specialist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Michelle Bloomquist has been the manager of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) since 2019. Prior to her position at IDNR, Michelle worked a variety of natural resource and wildlife-related jobs which included positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Illinois Natural History Survey, Southern Illinois University, and Michigan DNR. Michelle is a Michigan native who obtained her B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University. Michelle lives in Petersburg, IL with her husband and two children and enjoys hiking, fishing, and camping.

Bob Caveny is the Farm Programs Manager in the Office of Land Management at IDNR. His duties include agricultural leasing, working with the three Wildlife Propagation Centers (Des Plaines, Lincoln and Mt. Vernon), the controlled pheasant hunting program, field trials, dog training areas, and hound running areas. He can be contacted at Bob.Caveny@Illinois.gov.

Mike Chandler is the Agriculture/Wildlife & Habitat Lease Management Program Manager for IDNR.  Mike has been with IDNR for 28 years, the majority serving as the Private Lands/District Wildlife Biologist out of the Havana field office.  He has been the Ag Lease Program manager since 2018.  The Ag Lease Program oversees 225 Agriculture leases totaling 35,000 acres.  Mike works closely with the District Wildlife Biologists, Heritage Biologists and Site Superintendents developing cropping plans that will mutually benefit wildlife and their habitats.

Bill serves as President and CEO of Delta Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that collaborates with communities to tackle complex environmental challenges across the Midwest. As CEO, Bill oversees the organization’s programmatic strategy, operations, engagement, and fundraising efforts. From 2011-2015, he served as Managing Director, guiding project implementation across several areas including those related to environmental markets, climate, agriculture, water, and ecosystems, and has been on staff at Delta since 2004. He earned his M.S. in Environmental Analysis and Decision Making from Rice University and received a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology and Environmental Studies at Tulane University. He serves as a member of the Advisory Board for Loyola University Chicago Institute of Environmental Sustainability.

Max coordinates AFT’s policy work across the Midwest region. Before joining AFT, he was the Forest Program Manager for the Washington Environmental Council where he lead advocacy efforts to create new funding sources to protect working forests and support the adoption of climate-smart ag and forestry in Washington State. Max earned a Masters in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Cincinnati.

Keynote Address | Peter Lehner

Peter is the Author of Farming for Our Future: The Science, Law, and Policy of Climate-Neutral Agriculture.

Based in New York, Peter Lehner directs Earthjustice’s Sustainable Food Farming Program, developing strategies to promote a more environmentally sound agricultural system and to reduce health, environmental, and climate harms from production of our food. From 2007–2015, Peter was the Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the NRDC Action Fund. Among other new initiatives, Peter shaped a clean food program with food waste, antibiotic-free meat, regional food, and climate mitigation projects. From 1999–2006, Peter served as chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s office. He supervised all environmental litigation by and against the state. He developed innovative multi-state strategies targeting global warming and air pollution emissions from the nation’s largest electric utilities, spearheaded novel watershed enforcement programs, and led cases addressing invasive species, wildlife protection, and public health. Peter previously served at NRDC for five years directing the clean water program where he brought important attention to storm water pollution. Before that, he created and led the environmental prosecution unit for New York City. He clerked for Chief Judge James Browning of the Ninth Circuit. Peter holds an AB in philosophy and mathematics from Harvard College and is an honors graduate of Columbia University Law School. Peter helps manage two mid-sized farms and teaches a course on agriculture and environmental law at Columbia Law School and Yale Law School. Peter has been honored with numerous awards by EPA and environmental groups. He is on the boards of the Rainforest Alliance and Environmental Advocates of New York and a member of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.


Erin Meyer is a mom, dietitian, chef, and food systems professional who believes that food system change begins with your food story. One of Erin’s fondest memories is watching her great-aunt on Christmas eve taste Erin’s home grown and cured prosciutto, close her eyes, and say, “just like mama’s.” Erin’s life’s food stories have guided her to where she is today. Her thirty+ years of experience in healthcare education, nonprofit leadership, relationship building, and collaborative work with farmers, culinary and health professionals, and food system experts have given Erin the gift of creating Basil’s Harvest. Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize your food story – It’s powerful.


Soil Health in the City Panel

Viviana is a mixed Chicana urban farmer, herbalist, animal-keeper, and mycoremediator in occupied Kiikaapoi, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Kaskaskia, Myammia, Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potowatomi territories. For 5 generations their family has lived in the unique biome now known as the Southside of Chicago. As an immunocompromised person with a food-related illness who grew up in an area experiencing environmental injustice and food apartheid, for them this work in our food system is for survival. They have had the privilege to learn from movement ancestors and elders on issues of im/migration rights, Indigenous land and water defense, abolition, labor rights, and health equity. They’ve co-founded a cooperative community garden, a land stewardship initiative and an indoor mushroom growing business. They’re inspired to co-create spaces of mutual support for Earthworkers and fellow transformers of our communities. They ground their work in reverence to the land, water, air to honor and regain food and medicine sovereignty.

Bio coming soon!

Ezra Lee is Growing Home’s Farm and Program Coordinator where he assists in many of the operations on the farm as well as facilitating on-the-farm training for production assistants in the Employment Training Program.  With over 5 years of experience growing in a range of farm establishments, Ezra has a great wealth of knowledge and commitment to finding the best ways to improve and maintain soil AND farmer health while providing healthy food.

Ezra has always worked on farms with missions aligned with organic standards and growing diverse ranges of crops and animals. Prior to Growing Home, Ezra worked at 4 farms across the Northeast, from 1 acre mixed use operations to a 40 acre high production wholesale farm with some of the best rated soils in the world (Pioneer Valley, MA).  He’s grateful to mentors and coworkers he’s learned with and from at Laughing Earth Farm, Riverland Farm, Capital Roots Urban Farm and the farm at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, his alma mater.  His favorite vegetable? “At the moment, leeks!”

Zumwalt Acres Rock Weathering Trial

Gavi Welbel co-founded Zumwalt Acres: A Regenerative Agriculture Community located in Sheldon, Illinois on unceded homeland of Kickapoo, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Potawatomi, Myaamia, and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. Gavi and her twin sister Remi are sixth generation farmers in the Zumwalt family. Alongside their father, JR, and a cohort of young people committed to sustainable food systems, they are transitioning their family farm from conventional to regenerative agriculture. Gavi is also a student at Yale University studying mechanical engineering and earth and planetary sciences. She is passionate about environmental justice and her research in climate change mitigation; she loves to dance and cook communal meals. Gavi is inspired by her Jewish heritage and the rich history of agrarian wisdom that it offers.


Additional Resources

Resources coming soon!


Supporting Partners

 

Advocates for Urban Agriculture 

American Farmland Trust 

Association of Soil Water Conservation Districts 

Bailey Land and Conservation

Basils Harvest 

Champaign County Soil Water Conservation District

Chicago Region Trees Initiative

Clinton County Farm Bureau 

The Conservation Fund

Delta Institute 

Eco-Justice Collaborative

Edible Evanston

Farm Green

Green Lands Blue Waters

Growing Home Inc.

Heartlands Conservancy 

Illinois Association of Drainage Districts 

Illinois Dept of Agriculture

Illinois Dept of Natural Resources

Illinois Environmental Council

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency 

Illinois Farm Bureau

Izaak Walton League of America

Lyons Farm

Madison County Master Gardener

Madison County Master Naturalist

Mississippi River Network

Natural Habitat Evanston

Natural land Institute

Prairie Rivers Network

Savanna Institute 

The Land Connection

We Sow We Grow

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

Zumwalt Acres