Peninsula Pride Farms share new regenerative strategies at annual meeting

Peninsula Pride Farms held their annual meeting on Feb. 13 at the Kewaunee Fairgrounds Expo Hall. Over 80 farmers, industry partners and community members gathered to hear from a distinguished lineup of speakers and gain insight on the progress made by the farmer-led watershed group over the past year.

PPF President Duane Ducat of Deer Run Dairy welcomed attendees. He shared current updates about the group, stating they are up to 70 members, and discussed their goals for 2024.

“We’ve been hosting these meetings for quite some time now, and I continue to be impressed by the turnout and the engagement we receive from the community,” Ducat said. “It does not go unnoticed; we appreciate the support you all have given to this group.”

Russel Hedrick, owner of Soil Regen, presented the regenerative strategies he uses on his farm in Hickory, North Carolina. Hedrick is a first-generation farmer and an early adaptor of innovative farming practices.

He urged farmers to make management decisions based on new technologies and modern soil testing rather than outdated methods. One of the most critical aspects of growing corn, Hedrick explained, is understanding not only the type of available nutrients that are needed but also the timing of when each nutrient is needed throughout the growing cycle.

“We will manage and balance our plant nutrients over the entire growing season all the way through to the R5 growth stage,” he said.

Some practices that Hedrick uses on his farm include cover cropping, the use of biologicals, drone applications and fertility management. He advised farmers to start using new methods on a trial basis.

“I know it’s hard to do all of this over your whole farm when starting,” he said. “I typically tell farmers to start by picking your best field, your worst field and two in the middle.”

Shawn Wesener, Farmers for Sustainable Food data collection specialist, provided an update on PPF’s 2023 Member Conservation Practice Survey. Results include data from all the group’s 54 member farmers.

“It’s pretty amazing that soil sampling has been done on 99.7% of the groups 73,421 cropped acres,” Wesener said. “It says something about how well this group manages their fields.”

Randy Zogbaum, a soil health specialist for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), shared an update with attendees. He spoke about the DATCP producer-led grant program and an upcoming soil health website that will provide a way for farmers to share stories and soil health projects happening throughout the state.

Kory Stalsberg, Farm Business & Production Management Instructor at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, discussed how a farm financial analysis can help farmers make more informed management decisions. He challenged attendees to think about how conservation practices add value and how we can connect them with finances.

“How do we put a financial value on soil health and the agronomic benefits of cover crops,” Stalsberg questioned. “How can we quantify that in a financial sense in order to make more well-informed decisions on the farm?”

Keith Berns, co-owner and operator of Green Cover Seed, a leading cover crop seed provider in the United States, shared his thoughts on improving soils.

“We have a problem in this country with way too much soil erosion and degradation,” Berns said. “It’s not just that we’ve lost our soils, it’s the loss of organic material in the soils.”

His presentation drew parallels between a biblical story of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and what farmers can do to rebuild their soils, noting the use of cover crops for improved infiltration rates and nitrogen availability.

Russel Hedrick and Keith Berns had another opportunity to speak with attendees alongside Derek Ducat of Deer Run Dairy during a panel discussion moderated by Berry Bubolz. They shared more of their stories and insights by answering questions from the audience.

During the business portion of the meeting, Paul Cornette, Mike Vandenhouten and Adam Barta were re-elected to the PPF board of directors. Don Niles stepped down from his board position and accepted an advisor role. Jeremy Heim of Heim’s Hillcrest Dairy was elected to the open board position.

Other board members are President Duane Ducat of Deer Run Dairy, Vice President Jacob Brey of Brey Cycle Farm, Treasurer Chris Schneider of Nicolet National Bank, Secretary Nathen Nysse of Tilth Agronomy Group,  Lee Kinnard of Kinnard Farms, Scott Jeanquart of Bryersquart Farm, Eric Olson of Olson Family Farm, Keith Braun of Agropur and Nick Guilette of Guilette Farms. Dave Rueckl serves as a board advisor.

Photos:

Russel Hedrick presenting

Keith Berns presenting

Panel discussion

Board of Directors
Caption: From left back: Nick Guilette,  Paul Cornette, Chris Schneider, Nathen Nysse, Keith Braun and Mike Vandenhouten. From the left front: Jeremy Heim, Adam Barta, Eric Olson, Jacob Brey, and Duane Ducat. Missing from the photo are Lee Kinnard and Scott Jeanquart.

About Peninsula Pride Farms:  Peninsula Pride Farms is a nonprofit organization of dairy farmers, crop farmers and corporate members committed to protecting and improving ground and surface water in Kewaunee and southern Door counties in Wisconsin. The group leverages the ingenuity of the agricultural community, university research and scientists to implement practices with measurable outcomes. More information peninsulapridefarms.org.

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