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 tillage 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. 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

Producers receive financial assistance to improve their land

Producers receive financial assistance to improve their land

By Stan Wise South Dakota Soil Health Coalition For many producers, knowing that soil health is important just isn’t enough. The challenge for them is how to pay for it. “Conservation is not cheap,” Marshall County producer Dennis Fagerland said. Soil health is...

Soil health producers have more confidence in their systems

Soil health producers have more confidence in their systems

By Lynn Betts For South Dakota Soil Health Coalition As concerns continue to build about a widespread drought across South Dakota this year, the state’s  farmers and ranchers face yet another stressful year. Two exceptionally wet years in 2018 and 2019 followed by...