Farmers building healthy soil featured on new regional tour

Soil health farm tour sign adjacent to corn field

Southeast Minnesota – A new self-guided tour is highlighting farmers in southeast Minnesota who are pursuing conservation practices on their operations. The goal is to showcase the benefits of these practices and encourage other farmers to seek out more information.

Large signs along the edges of the nine farmers’ fields highlight practices — such as conservation tillage, grazing livestock, and planting cover crops — that they implement to reduce erosion and improve the health of their soil.

Accompanying flyers available at the tour stops and an interactive website provide more detail about each farmers’ experiences. Visitors can connect with local Soil Water and Conservation District offices to learn about available resources and email participating farmers to ask questions about their experiences.

Adopting practices that improve the health of the soil is an important way to increase productivity and conserve this vital resource. Despite the benefits, the number of farmers using conservation practices is still small, with only 5% of farmers planting cover crops in 2017, according to the USDA.

“Highlighting producers who have improved their soil health and profitability because of these practices can help us reach farmers who may be hesitant to change their operations,” said Teresa DeMars, public relations and information specialist for Rice Soil Water and Conservation District.

Many of the farmers participating in the tour are willing to share what they have learned with other farmers. The tour website provides a way to connect farmers who want to learn more with those who’ve had success. “We are trying to get farmers curious about these practices and then point them in the direction of people who have experience and technical knowledge,” said Steve Lawler, soil scientist and resource specialist for the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District.

Information about the tour, including the interactive map of the farm locations, can be found at and at local Soil Water and Conservation District offices.

The Soil Health Farm Tour is coordinated by Environmental Initiative in partnership with Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Mower, Olmsted, Rice, and Steele counties and the Cannon River Agricultural Collaborative.