2023 Soil Health Conference Speakers

Dr. Kris Nichols

KRIS Systems Education & Consultation

Dr. Kris Nichols is a leader in the movement to regenerate soils for healthy crops, food, people and the planet. She is the Director of Research and Extension with COG (Canadian Organic Growers) in Ottawa, Ontario and Research Director at MyLand Company LLC in Phoenix, AZ. She is also the founder and principal scientist of KRIS (Knowledge for Regeneration and Innovation in Soils) Systems Education & Consultation; Soil Microbiology Research Advisor with the Food Water Wellness Foundation in Olds, Alberta; and Research Director with Carbon Sync in Freemantle, Western Australia. She is also working with Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, on a project combining Regenerative Agriculture and Renewable Energy (RARE) to reduce the economic risks in transitioning to regenerative agriculture. Kris participates on the Advisory Board for the Real Organic Project; Scientific Advisory Board with the Savory Institute’s – Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) program; Land Use & Agriculture Task Force for the HRH Sustainable Markets Initiative; and as a Soil Science Advisor with Health First.

Her current focus is to address current and future agricultural needs by building upon a soil health foundation to identify biological methods for agricultural production and tools and practices to reduce pest issues, soil erosion, fossil fuel use, and greenhouse gas emissions. These systems are resilient and adapt to climatic uncertainty by increasing nutrient and water use efficiencies; improving pollinator activity and food security; and provide long-term solutions to agricultural economic viability, food insecurity, and the loss of ecosystem services. Kris continues to develop and evolve methodology and tools farmers, homeowners, and students may use to examine and assess their soil health. Her work on carbon movement from plant to microbes and nutrient and water cycling have led her to also expand her research into exploring the similarities between the soil and gut microbiomes to improve soil and animal including human health. Throughout her career, Kris has given over 300 invited presentations to a wide variety of audiences throughout the world, authored or co-authored more than 25 peer-reviewed publications including two book chapters, been cited or interviewed for more than 50 magazine or newspaper articles, highlighted in several books, and has numerous videos on-line. Kris is featured in the Kiss the Ground documentary.

Dr. Nichols was the Chief Scientist at Rodale Institute for over three years where she oversaw approximately fifteen projects on organic agriculture, including the Farming Systems Trial®, a side-by-side comparison of conventional chemical grain production to organic, biologically-based production, and the initiation of the Vegetable Systems Trial. She was also instrumental in obtaining funding for these projects including recently being primarily responsible for the receipt of a ~$6 million, six-year project to explore the impacts of agricultural management practices on water quality in the Delaware River Watershed. Prior to joining Rodale Institute, Nichols was a Research (Soil) Microbiologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in North Dakota for 11 years and a Biological Laboratory Technician with ARS in Beltsville, MD for 3 years. During her time with USDA, she focused on mycorrhizal fungi and the investigation of glomalin – a substance produced by AM (arbuscular mycorrhizal) fungi. Glomalin contributes to nutrient cycling by protecting AM hyphae transporting nutrients from the soil to the plant and to soil structure and plant health by helping to form and stabilize soil aggregates.

Kris received Bachelor of Science degrees in Plant Biology and in Genetics and Cell Biology from the University of Minnesota in 1995, a Master’s degree in Environmental Microbiology from West Virginia University in 1999, and a Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Maryland in 2003. In recognition of her work, Dr. Nichols has received several awards including the 2012 Conservation Research Award from the International Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Rick Clark

Rick Clark is a 5th generation farmer from Williamsport, IN. The main goal on his farm is to build soil health and achieve balance with Mother Nature. Rick has developed and is constantly improving a systematic approach to regenerative farming. He is most proud of incorporating regenerative farming practices with all acres being certified organic. He calls it regenerative organic stewardship with no tillage. He will suppress weeds and build soil health with cover crops and no tillage. Rick also cares deeply about human health, as it is another important driver behind the organic no-till style of farming. Rick is building a system that will be viable and profitable for generations to come.

Mitchell Hora

Continuum Ag

Mitchell is a 7th generation southeast Iowa farmer and the founder/CEO of Continuum Ag, a soil health data intelligence company. The Horas have been using no-till systems since 1978, cover crops since 2013, and have gotten creative with relay cropping, 60-inch corn, and more. Mitchell expands his efforts globally with Continuum Ag’s 38-state and 16-country reach. The group launched TopSoil as the first soil health data platform in 2020 and works with farmers globally to successfully adopt regenerative farming systems.

Roy Thompson

Roy Thompson and his wife, Meredith, along with their three kids ranch and farm in north central South Dakota. In 2015 Roy had a radical health transformation that changed the trajectory of his life. That transformation has changed the way Roy sees things, and he has since been moving down the regenerative path for his farming and ranching operation.

Dr. Peter Sexton

Southeast Research Farm

Peter Sexton has been the supervisor of the Southeast Research Farm in Beresford since 2012. His research efforts include work on cover crops to improve soil quality, forages and grazing, integration of livestock with grain production, and basic agronomy of corn and soybean production—including development of a multi-hybrid planter in collaboration with Doug Prairie, at that time with Raven Industries. He obtained his master’s and doctorate at the University of Florida in Agronomy (emphasis on Crop Physiology) working with peanuts and dry beans, and his undergraduate in Agronomy from SDSU in 1985. Past experience includes working as an agronomist in the potato program with University of Maine Extension, a faculty research position with Oregon State University (Central Oregon Agricultural Research Center), a post-doc working on soybean physiology at Iowa State University, and as a volunteer agronomist in a technical assistance program with the Mennonite Central Committee in Bangladesh.

Bryan Jorgensen

Jorgensen Land & Cattle

Bryan Jorgensen was an active member of the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition beginning with its inception in 2015 through 2020. Bryan holds a bachelors of science in Mechanized Agriculture from South Dakota State University which he earned in 1987 and is a partner in “Jorgensen Land and Cattle.” A fourth-generation family owned and operated farm and ranch, the partnership includes Bryan’s brother Greg, nephew Cody, and son Nick. Together they run a hunting lodge, diverse cow/calf and bull development operation, as well as farm 12,000 acre no-till crop operation growing feed-stuffs, feed grains, and certified seed.

Soil Health practices utilized by Jorgensen throughout his operation include No-till, cover crops, diverse crop rotations, as well as livestock integration. He is also active in groups such as the South Dakota Crop Improvement Association, Nutrient Research and Education Council, Tripp County Water Users District Board of Directors, as well as the USDA NRCS Voices for Soil Health and Soil Health Mentoring.

Jorgensen’s vision for the future of soil health is “To maximize production efficiency of our soil while re-generating the soil for future generations.”

Dr. Eileen Kladivko

Dr. Eileen Kladivko is Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, where she teaches and does research and extension work in soil conservation and management. Her research focus has been to identify soil management systems that improve environmental quality and promote agricultural sustainability. Specific research areas have included the impacts of tile drainage on crop yields and nitrate losses to surface waters; the interactions of earthworms, soil management, and soil physical properties; and cover crops and conservation tillage for soil health improvement. She was one of the founding organizers of the Midwest Cover Crops Council and she serves in many leadership roles including the leadership team of the Indiana Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative (CCSI) and the regional Transforming Drainage project.

Dan Forgey

Dan Forgey was an active member of the SD Soil Health Coalition Board from 2015-2021. He is the Farm Manager for Cronin Family Farm and Ranch on which he helps to run a cow/calf livestock operation as well as 100% low disturbance/no-till management of crop ground since 1993. Additional soil health practices utilized include diversified cropping rotations and cover crops. Forgey has also been a member of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm board for the past eight years.

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.”

Kent Vlieger

As the South Dakota NRCS state soil health specialist, Kent Vlieger works to help producers and landowners across the state improve the health of their soil and the resiliency of their operations. Kent also helped organize a no-till community garden in Huron that incorporates cover crops.

Anthony Bly

Anthony Bly serves the citizens and producers of South Dakota as a South Dakota State University Extension soils field specialist. He is involved with many applied research projects, including the nutrient requirements of major agronomic crops and cover crop nutrient cycling in South Dakota. He works closely with conservation partners to educate others about the benefits of soil health and sustainable agriculture practices. Anthony also manages the Every Acre Counts program which aims to improve the profitability, diversity, and ecosystem benefits of agriculture by using precision technologies and focuses on marginal lands impacted by wet conditions, saline or sodic soils and eroded areas.

Pete Bauman

Pete Bauman is an SDSU Extension Natural Resources Field Specialist, focusing mainly on native habitat management including grazing, grazing infrastructure design, prescribed fire training and implementation, invasive species, wildlife habitat, and grassland restoration. He serves as a liaison to the SD Grassland Coalition, as well as on the boards of The Grassfed Exchange, The Great Plains Fire Science Exchange, and is a member of a multi-state Extension team focused on educating the public on woody species encroachment in grasslands. He received BS and MS degrees from SDSU in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and is active in the SD Wildlife Society and the SD Society for Range Management. Pete lives near Watertown with his wife Bridget and 4 children.

Dr. Marisol Berti

Dr. Marisol Berti is a North Dakota State University professor of plant sciences. Her interests include forage, cover crops, bioenergy crops production research, sustainability, resilience and environmental impact of cropping systems. Her current research involves alfalfa-corn intercropping, sunflower-alfalfa intercropping, forage sorghum, and winter camelina as a cover crop and potential low carbon intensity biofuel crop.

Dr. Tom Schumacher

Dr. Tom Schumacher is a South Dakota State University professor emeritus of plant science.

Gwen McCausland

Gwen McCausland is the director of the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum.

Tregg Cronin

Tregg Cronin is the marketing director for Cronin Farms, Inc. in Gettysburg, SD.

Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s farmers and ranchers. Rake regularly tackles industry is-sues as a columnist and speaker.

A former National FFA Extemporaneous Speaking Champion and National Beef Ambassador, Radke has spent the last 15 years on the road fighting for the agriculture, rural America and the western way of life. She’s gone head-to-head against animal rights activists, environmental ex-tremists, politicians, and celebrities who seek to eliminate animal agriculture.

She believes food security is national security, and her work is focused on keeping producers on the land and ensuring every citizen has access to safe, affordable and nutritious food in this country.

Radke is the author of five agriculturally-accurate children’s books, and her goal is to help pro-mote agricultural literacy in schools. Her titles include, “Levi’s Lost Calf,” “Can-Do Cowkids,” “ A Home Run For Peanuts,” “The Soil Quilt,” and “Beef Strong.” Radke is a mom of four and is de-termined to teach children about where their food comes and to celebrate the people behind our food, fiber, and energy who make it possible.

Learn more about Radke at www.amandaradke.com.

2023 Soil Health School Registration Open!

The 2023 Soil Health School will be held August 28-30 on the farms of Anthony Bly and Bruce Carlson near Garretson, SD! There will be classroom sessions, field excercises, discussion panels, and opportunities to network with researchers, industry professionals, and experienced producers who can help you on your soil health journey! Class size is limited, so learn more and register today!

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