SOUTH DAKOTA SOIL HEALTH COALITION (SDSHC), Pierre, S.D. June 1, 2019- A recent on-line poll of South Dakota agricultural students and instructors revealed that interest and awareness of the topic of soil health and regenerative agricultural is strong. The poll was conducted by the SDSHC during the fall of 2018 as part of a Conservation Collaboration Grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The goal of the survey project was to gauge current levels of interest and awareness, in order to determine what outreach strategies and materials were needed to continue to increase the reach of the soil health message. Adoption of soil health management systems and practices has increased steadily nationally, but in order to continue to move the soil health movement into the mainstream of farming, reaching the next generation is going to be extremely important.
During the summer of 2018, an outreach plan was developed to identify technical institutes, four-year colleges, as well as FFA instructors and advisors willing to distribute the online survey. Subsequently, throughout the fall of 2018, more than 500 agricultural students attending South Dakota State University, Lake Area Technical Institute, Mitchell Technical Institute and middle and high school FFA students across the state, completed the online survey. Based on the data collected from these surveys and the responses of forty-three instructors a series of summary findings were compiled. Seven student and eight instructor summary findings, which can be found in the full report, show the continued importance of increasing soil health education efforts, ensuring future soil health information focuses on “on-farm” benefits, continuing to develop and expand soil health information and curriculum, as well as the creation of age appropriate interactive media and teaching tools.