A collective effort to increase sustainable ag production through diversification and improved soil health.
Promote improved soil health.
The need for a producer led soil health organization to provide additional education and outreach throughout the state of South Dakota was identified by Jeff Zimprich, State Conservationist for the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service, in 2015. The South Dakota Grassland Coalition was approached because of their longstanding reputation for promoting the benefits of well managed grasslands to both producers and others with respect and integrity. The South Dakota Grassland Coalition Board decided to assist with the project by holding an organizational meeting May 19, 2015 at the SD Cattlemen’s conference room in Pierre.
In attendance at the organizational meeting were agricultural producers from throughout the state and additional representatives of the following organizations:
- South Dakota State University
- South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts
- South Dakota Department of Agriculture
- South Dakota Farm Bureau
- South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association
- South Dakota Soybean Association
- South Dakota Grassland Coalition
- USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
A majority of those in attendance agreed that there was a need and the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition was officially created. A meeting was held on June 11th, 2015 during which the bylaws, as well as the vision and mission statements were created. A seven-member board consisting of Al Miron, Bryan Jorgensen, Dan Forgey, Dennis Hoyle, Levi Neuharth, and Terry Ness was organized at this time. The inaugural soil health education event was held at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm with Ray Archuleta as the keynote speaker and over 120 participants in attendance.
“Because soil without biology is just geology” – Ray Archuleta
Cindy Zenk, Coordinator
Sarah Fitzgerald, Communications Coordinator
The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) was pleased to welcome Sarah Fitzgerald as the new Communications Coordinator, who will be based out of the Sioux Falls USDA Service Center, in October of 2017. Originally from Illinois, she attended Augustana College, in Rock Island, where she majored in Biology, Environmental Studies, and Geography. Her work background includes the Quad City Botanical Center, Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District, as well as Rock Island County Soil and Water Conservation District. Sarah is an avid hiker, camper and natural resources enthusiast and is looking forward to exploring South Dakota as she helps to further the mission of the Soil Health Coalition.
This position was made possible through a USDA NRCS SD 2017 Conservation Collaboration Grant (CCG) to the SDSHC, with key partner the South Dakota Grassland Coalition (SDGLC), and the SD Association of Conservation Districts (SDACD) who is the employer of record. Through summer of 2020, Sarah will be working closely with State Public Affairs Officer Colette Kessler and SDSHC Coordinator Cindy Zenk to increase awareness and adoption of soil health practices in South Dakota. Among other tasks, Sarah will be handling the Coalition’s communications through traditional and social media and managing the communications/public relations deliverables in the NRCS and SDSHC Cooperative Agreement, such as the Soil Health Producer Profiles and South Dakota Soil Stories on YouTube.
“I look forward to working with producers, and partners, to expand the mission and vision of the SD Soil Health Coalition”