PIERRE, S.D.- Improving soil health is a mission many South Dakotan’s take seriously, including Governor Kristi Noem, proclaiming February 21 Soil Health Awareness Day in South Dakota.
“South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are deeply committed to stewardship,” Noem said. “Soil health is a crucial component to ensuring the land that grows our food remains productive for future generations.”
Soil Health Awareness Day provides an opportunity for all South Dakotans to learn about the need for, and benefits of soil health, explains Cindy Zenk, Coordinator of the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC). “Soil health matters. No matter what your occupation or where you live in South Dakota, its health impacts you,” explained Zenk, who works with hundreds of farmers and ranchers to advocate for the importance of the irreplaceable natural resource. “Healthy soil supports food production and water quality, topics which are of great importance especially this year and will be for many years to come. Healthy soil supports wildlife economic stability and profitability and much more.. Soil truly is the foundation of life.”
SDSHC is a producer-led, non-profit which collaborates with many agencies, organizations and individuals to promote improved soil health, providing education and resources to South Dakotans of all ages and occupations.
“Our mission, to improve soil health, is an attainable goal as long as those within the agricultural community become aware and receive support from the community at large,” Zenk explained. “The Governor’s Proclamation certainly aids us in our mission.”
Because healthy soil is better able to absorb and retain water, benefits of implementing management practices that bolster soil health are especially evident during years of extreme weather – excess moisture or drought – benefits Noem noted in the Proclamation.
Established in 2015, SDSHC has worked tirelessly to increase awareness and provide information through programs like their youth-focused Soil Health Buckets. A hands-on teaching tool, funded by grants, individuals and businesses. Today more than 100 South Dakota classrooms implement Soil Health Buckets and accredited lesson plans into their STEM education.
Beyond educational resources and connecting farmers and ranchers with soil health experts, the organization’s team of Soil Health Technicians work one-on-one with producers helping them develop and implement soil health practices to work on their land.
“If agriculture, our state’s number one industry, is going to be sustainable for future generations, we have to practice the principles of soil health,” explained Dan Forgey, a SDSHC board member and farm manager for Cronin Family Farm and Ranch near Gettysburg.
Governor Noem agreed. “After the wet year we had in 2019, producers across the state have seen the benefit of practices that support soil health, and I’m hopeful more producers will implement added water infiltration and retention soil practices to better support our state’s long-term soil health.”
To learn more about Soil Health Awareness Day, materials available to promote the day, as well asthe work SDSHC does to support their mission, visit www.sdsoilhealthcoalition.org , email email@example.com or call (605) 280-4190.