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Minn. farmer wins national recognition for soil health

Brian Ryberg of Ryberg Farms in Buffalo Lake, Minn., won a national award from the Soil Health Partnership. Submitted photo

BUFFALO LAKE, Minn. -- Brian Ryberg and Ryberg Farms are relatively new to some farming practices that promote soil health. He’s also a fairly new member of the Soil Health Partnership.

But Ryberg, who farms with his wife Sandy at Buffalo Lake, has taken well and quickly to both. He received the Soil Health Partnership’s “Super Sprout” Award at the 2019 Soil Health Partnership Summit Jan. 15-16 in St. Louis.

The award honors him as a first-year member of the organization who “has jumped right into active involvement” with the group, according to the Soil Health Partnership.

The award recognizes him for holding a field day, valuing collaboration, working with other members in the group to gain and share knowledge, advocating cover crops and continuing to seek out practices that are best for his farm.

Once, because of those farming practices, “We were kind of the strange ones in the neighborhood,” Ryberg said. “But the mentality is changing, and people are seeing the benefit of it.”

The farmer-led Soil Health Partnership, an initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, describes its mission as fostering transformation in agriculture through improved soil health, benefiting both farmer profitability and the environment. More than 140 working farms in 14 states are enrolled in the organization.

Ryberg Farms transitioned to strip tillage five years ago and now raises corn, soybeans and sugar beets in 22-inch rows. It’s believed to be one of only a very few area farms with strip-till sugar beets.

“We jumped right in with 100 percent strip-till from the beginning. It went well for us, but there were a few days I wondered what the heck we were doing,” he said.

The Ryberg operation also uses cover crops and interseeding.

Farmers new to such practices should consider “taking 40-acre field, an 80-acre field, whatever you’re comfortable with. Try something,” Ryberg said. “And work with people who have tried it. It (trying it yourself) won’t be a train wreck if you have someone to help mentor you.”

Improving technology and equipment makes it easier for farmers to implement strip till and other soil conservation practices. “But it’s the mental concept that can be hardest to overcome,”Ryberg said.

Ryberg Farms’ greater emphasis on soil health has been beneficial, he said.

“It’s working for us,and we’re excited about where we’re headed,” he said.

More information on Ryberg Farms: https://rybergfarms.com/

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