Mentor Network

Building Connections

Giving Advice, Finding Solutions, and Building Connections for Healthier Soil, Healthier Crops, Healthier Livestock, and Healthier People.

The South Dakota Conservation Mentor Network was organized because people saw a need for the sharing of real on farm/ranch experiences with application of science-based conservation practices and systems. South Dakota has a unique climate with a variety of ecosystems that encompass more than 800 different soil types, fluctuating precipitation, and geography as well as land uses. It can be challenging to successfully manage that landscape for healthy and productive natural resources with a positive bottom line.

When land owners or operators have a Resource Concern* or want to enhance their operation, they can get free one-on-one, personalized advice from the Natural Resources Conservation Service on the best solutions to meet the unique conservation and business goals of those who grow our nation’s food and fiber.

Many factors can influence the long-term success of applying conservation in the landscape. With that in mind, no one knows better than the ag producers themselves of how to make things work. The South Dakota Mentor Network is a partnership effort of several entities to help connect ag producers who could help each other save time and money by sharing their experiences. Mentor-mentee roles are a relationship where people share knowledge, advice and resources, and provide a stable supportive relationship. Mentors will help guide producers through their specific topics.

This free service, the Mentor Network, is available to anyone by contacting your local Natural Resources Conservation Service, Conservation District, the South Dakota Grassland Coalition (SDGC) or the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC).

A newly updated version of the “Building Connections” Mentor Network publication is now available. Request your copy of the booklet today!

Please call Cindy Zenk, Coordinator for the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, (605) 280-4190 or email sdsoilhealth@gmail.com.

5 Principles of soil health

1. Soil Cover

Keep plant residues on the soil surface. Look down, what percentage of your soil is protected by residue? Erosion needs to be minimized before you can start building soil health.

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2. Limited Disturbance

Minimize physical, chemical, and biological disturbance as much as possible. You will start building soil aggregates, pore spaces, soil biology, and organic matter.

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3. Living Roots

Keep plants growing throughout the year to feed the soil. Cover crops can add carbon to the soil, providing a great food source for micro-organisms. Try to add a perennial to your system. Start small to find the best fit for your operation.

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4. Diversity

Try to mimic nature. Use cool and warm season grasses and broad leaf plants as much as possible, with three or more crops and cover crops in rotation. Grassland and cropland plant diversity increases soil and animal health.

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5. Integrating Livestock

Fall/winter grazing of cover crops and crop residue increases livestock’s plane of nutrition at a time when pasture forage quality can be low, increases the soil biological activity on cropland, and improves nutrient cycling. Proper grassland management improves soil health.

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Levi Neuharth

Levi Neuharth

Fort Pierre, SD

Shawn Freeland

Shawn Freeland

Caputa, SD

Terry Ness

Terry Ness

Pierre, SD

Dennis Hoyle

Dennis Hoyle

Roscoe, SD

Doug Sieck

Doug Sieck

Selby, SD

Dan Forgey

Dan Forgey

Gettysburg, SD

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson

Frankfort, SD

Bryan Jorgensen

Bryan Jorgensen

Ideal, SD

Candice Mizera

Candice Mizera

McLaughlin, SD

Van Mansheim

Van Mansheim

Colome, SD

News & Events

Soil Health School offers life-changing networking opportunities

Soil Health School offers life-changing networking opportunities

By Stan Wise In 2019, Mitchell, SD, producer Mike Blaalid found like-minded producers and experts at the South Dakota Soil Health School, and meeting them helped him make some big changes in his operation. “I just had specific ideas I wanted to see what they thought...

Healthy land management can prevent dust storms

Healthy land management can prevent dust storms

By Stan Wise South Dakota Soil Health Coalition PIERRE – In the past month, dust storms have been making headlines across the western United States, including South Dakota. Blowing soil has created driving hazards due to low visibility, and accumulated wind-blown silt...

Living roots: Fighting soil compaction with biology and diversity

Living roots: Fighting soil compaction with biology and diversity

By Stan Wise As farm equipment has modernized, it has become much larger. That extra horsepower comes at a cost – and not just the one on the sticker. “Back in the day, they weren’t recommending any more than 5 tons per axle,” South Dakota State University Soils Field...