Among the many buzzwords circulating in agriculture today are “sustainability” and “workforce development,” two areas that Peninsula Pride Farms (PPF) focused on heavily at the group’s annual meeting.
At this year’s meeting held on Feb. 15, PPF President Don Niles shared the group’s growth in both members and conservation acres. Cover crop acres grew by 5,000, up to more than 17,000 in 2021.
Jamie Patton, well-known soil guru and senior outreach specialist for the Nutrient and Pest Management Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension, challenged the 75 farmers and community members in attendance to make soil health exciting and new. She discussed the most important part of soil health is aggregation —how the sand, silt and soil grains come together to create space. Healthy soil should have a good distribution of fibral finer aggregates without clotting, Patton said. She introduced a new phone app called Slakes to help farmers.
“It’s a tool that we can use to measure soil aggregates stability,” Patton said. “This can assess how our land management changes are impacting soil health on the landscape. You simply collect a few soil aggerates add water, take pictures and video, and the app calculates how stable that aggerate is in a wet-dry cycle.”
Another discussion revolved around generational differences causing workplace friction between “old” and “young,” including on the farm. The solution to these challenges lies in understanding the root of these differences, said Brad Gingras, owner of Superior Strategies and executive director of Northwest Wisconsin AHEC. Gingras tried to inspire the roomful of four different generations to start understanding the difference in learning, working and communicating styles all stemming from the influences each generation has had in their lifetime. By better understanding other generations, there is a greater chance of adapting a relationship or handling a challenge or new project more efficiently and effectively, he said.
“The more you understand why this person is the way (he or she) is, the better you can adapt to working together,” Gingras said. “My goal is to help you recognize the different generations in each workforce and how to discuss communication with your co-workers before either of you gets frustrated.”
In addition to the presentations, farmers shared stories about their successes in conservation practices. Farmers continue making strides in their stewardship. In 2018, 29 members had nutrient management plans and now nearly all the farmer members (41) have them. The number of acres under no-till planting has grown over 500% —from 3,864 acres in 2016 to 23,813 acres in 2021.
Four farmer members —Jacob Brey, Paul Cornette, Eric Olson and Mike Vandenhouten —served on a panel moderated by Barry Bubolz on innovative methods of improving soil on farms. They shared the successes and challenges they’ve had in trying different practices, including regenerating soils, multiple cover crop approaches, planting green, no-till planting, interseeding and pasture grazing on cover crops.
PPF also elected new board members —Jacob Brey, Scott Jeanquart and Eric Olson. The group recognized outgoing board members, Larry Babler, Tony Brey and Sam Kinnard. The other remaining board members are Adam Barta, Paul Cornette, Duane Ducat, Jesse Dvorachek, Nick Guilette, Lee Kinnard, Niles, Nathen Nysse, Dave Ruekl, Chris Schneider and Mike Vandenhouten.