Friend of Soil Health Award Winners

2023 Dan Forgey

During the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition’s Annual Meeting, the Coalition presented Dan Forgey with the 2023 Friend of Soil Health Award. Forgey was an active member of the SDSHC Board from 2015-2021. He was also the longtime agronomy manager for Cronin Farms where he helped to run a cow/calf livestock operation as well as low-disturbance, no-till management of crop ground since 1993. He also used diversified cropping rotations and cover crops. Forgey was also a member of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm Board of Directors for many years. He travels across the state and the nation to share his knowledge and experience with others who are working to improve the land. Forgey’s vision for the future of soil health is “to see more interest in soil health so that one day it is as common in farmers’ conversations as no-till.”

“I was tremendously touched that the peers, the people all in soil health gave me that award,” Forgey said. “It means a lot to me, especially coming from the people that live and preach soil health. I really appreciate that.”

2022 Anthony Bly

During the conference, South Dakota State University Extension Soils Field Specialist Anthony Bly was presented with the 2022 Friend of Soil Health Award. Departing SDSHC Board Member Dan Forgey said that Bly’s work has touched just about everyone in South Dakota agriculture.

“He has done a tremendous amount for the Coalition,” Forgey said. “Every time we turn around and need something, he’s always there.”

Bly thanked the Coalition for the award, and he noted that while soil health was a “forgotten science for many years,” many people are beginning to recognize its importance. “It’s really great,” he said. “I’m living the dream!”


2021 Lon Tonneson

During the 2021 Soil Health Conference, the SDSHC Board of Directors presented longtime Dakota Farmer editor Lon Tonneson with the 2021 Friend of Soil Health Award for his coverage of soil health and agriculture over the course of a 39-year career in print journalism. Speaking of his recent retirement and all the trends he had seen over the course of his career, Tonneson said, “I wish I had a front-row seat on what the next big thing is going to be in agriculture. I got a feeling it’s probably going to come from groups like yours, what you’re doing – intercropping, companion cropping, just a whole host of things.”




2020 Jay Fuhrer

The SDSHC awarded the 2020 Friend of Soil Health to Jay Fuhrer of Bismarck, ND. He was selected as this year’s deserving recipient because of the great impact he has had in the area of resource conservation and education. Jay recently retired after many years of service with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service where he mentored countless producers, USDA employees, and partners within the industry, in preserving natural resources for future generations. Jay’s expertise and leadership has contributed to the success of the SDSHC Soil Health School and many other outreach events throughout the upper Midwest and beyond.

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2019 Ruth & Dwayne Beck

The Friend of Soil Health award was created to recognize those who have made a substantial and lasting impact in the areas of soil health education and advocacy. The 2019 winners of this award were Ruth Beck, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension Agronomy Field Specialist, and Dwayne Beck, Dakota Lakes Research Farm Manager. Chosen for their many, many years of work in education and research they have impacted countless numbers of individuals. “The Becks will always have a legacy of promoting the adoption of no-till, diversity, and cover crops, for the betterment of the soils not only in the United States but worldwide” Levi Neuharth, SDSHC Board Member.

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2018 Jeff Hemenway

The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) awarded its first ever South Dakota Friend of Soil Health award at their second Annual Meeting held January 17, 2018. The recipient was retired Soil Health Specialist Jeff Hemenway who was honored for his decades long work advocating for improvements in soil health and soil health management throughout the state of South Dakota. As the key organizer of the SDSHC’s first Soil Health School he established a means for a holistic learning experience that has proven to make a real impact on all those who take part. Hemenway’s soil health message has convinced countless producers of the need to change how we manage our greatest natural resource, the soil.

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Legacy Award Winners

2023 Cronin Farms

During the 2023 Soil Health Conference, SDSHC presented Cronin Farms with the 2023 Legacy Award for their dedication to conservation and willingness to share their knowledge with others. The farm transitioned to no-till in 1993, and the fragile perennial pastures were transformed from season-long grazing to a rotational grazing system. Forage and cover crops have been integrated into the diverse crop rotations and are either swath or bale grazed during the fall and winter. The Cronins partner with other organizations to conduct research on their land and have hosted people from around the world who want to learn how they maintain excellent soil health. In 2016 Cronin Farms won the South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award.

Forgey said that the Legacy Award spotlighted the soil that has been built on the land managed by Cronin Farms. “The soil is what brought that award on,” he said. “It’s all about the soil and the soil health and our road down the soil health journey.”

2022 Jorgensen Land and Cattle

During the 2022 Soil Health Conference, SDSHC presented Jorgensen Land and Cattle with the 2022 Legacy Award.

The Jorgensen operation includes Bryan Jorgensen, his son Nick, his brother Greg, and his nephew Cody. Together they operate a hunting lodge, a diverse cow/calf and bull development operation, as well as a 12,000-acre no-till crop operation growing feedstuffs, feed grains, and certified seed. In addition to no-till practices, the Jorgensens use cover crops, diverse crop rotations, livestock integration on cropland, and minimal insecticide applications. The family has been adept at documenting the financial benefits of their soil health practices and sharing that information with others.

SDSHC Board Member Van Mansheim credited Bryan Jorgensen for getting him interested in soil health practices. “He’s done that for many people,” Mansheim said, “They promote soil health, and now his son is doing it, too. It’s just a great award for their family.”

2021 Jim and Carol Faulstich

During the 2021 Soil Health Conference, the SDSHC Board of directors presented Jim and Carol Faulstich of Highmore, S.D., with the 2021 Legacy Award for their long and tireless devotion to promoting conservation practices.

“I’ve known Jim for about 15 years,” SDSHC Board member Doug Sieck said. “I would be hard pressed to find someone in the list of people that I know or have been around that have done more, that have given more of their personal time and effort in the interest of enhancing conservation and the stewardship of the soil, the grasslands, the wildlife, and the environment in general.”

“There’s a lot of reasons why this is a very special award and greatly appreciated,” Jim Faulstich said. “It’s special to be associated with this group of people, so my hat’s off to everything, and I can’t say thank you enough for this award.”

The Legacy Award was created to honor the late Al Miron, who was a founding board member of the SDSHC. Al dedicated his personal and professional life to agriculture and was a dedicated advocate for improving soil health. Al’s wife Joan and two of their adult children, James and Jennifer received an honorary “Legacy Award” in his memory at the 2020 Soil Health Conference.


2020 Kurt & Kathy Stiefvater

The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition (SDSHC) announced the recipients of its 2020 Legacy Award in Watertown at the fourth annual Soil Health Conference. Kurt and Kathy Stiefvater of Salem, SD were presented the award because of the commitment their family has made to practicing soil health management and stewardship on their farm. The Stiefvater’s actively advocate for agriculture and improving soil health through numerous organizations in their local community and across the state. They have shared their knowledge regarding practices such as no-till, cover crops, livestock integration and much more, greatly impacting those they meet. Additionally, the Stiefvater’s have provided Soil Health School participants with the opportunity to experience a working soil health system and learn from their soil health journey.

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2019 Craig & Gene Stehly

The SDSHC Legacy Award was created to honor past board member Al Miron who passed away suddenly in November of 2017. He was often heard imparting the wisdom that “the best place to stop erosion is at the top of the hill, not at the bottom” and left behind a life long legacy of conservation and commitment to increasing soil health. Craig and Gene Stehly were honored as the first recipients of this award for their work to improve soil health and water quality on their farm near Mitchell, SD. The brothers, who have been partners in the operation since the early 1980’s, utilize a systems approach which includes the use of no-till, crop rotation, cover crops, and the planting of native grasses and pollinator friendly plants in sensitive areas.

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2024 Soil Health Conference Registration Open!

The 2024 Soil Health School will be held Jan. 23-24 at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel in Rapid City, SD! Keynote speakers include Jay Fuhrer, Jerry Hatfield, Glenn Elzinga, and Zach Smith. There will be many other speakers, breakout sessions, and opportunties to network and socialize! Join us and be a part of our 2024 Soil Health Conference!

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