The Importance of Soil Health in Agriculture | Menoken Farm | Holistic Farming

hello our voyagers welcome back to our
channel in this video we’re going to be doing something a little different
something that Joseph and I are both really passionate about which is getting
the stories of unique places in this country and sharing them with all of you
with our viewers today I’m at Manoukian farm in Manoukian North Dakota and this
is a truly special place my name is Darrell Oswalt I’m the
manager for the Minoan farm for the Burley County Soil Conservation District
fourth-generation farmer Rancher came from a very traditional background but
saw the need to make some changes back in two thousand five and six I had
worked here for the Burley County Soil District and I had a lot of great
mentors I don’t take a lot of credit for it myself
my mother was an educator and my dad worked off the farm as well and ranch I
was encouraged to to get a job and leave and because there was a better way of
life out there it was a good life but I did see this struggle as well and it
generally was mostly financial all the time I have a degree in in plant biology
actually but when I graduated from college I wanted to come back and be a
rancher and take a swing at it and of course they had to I had to get a job
and and thank goodness and God willing you know I ended up in the conservation
field because that’s where my interest was so I was doing it I was I was
ranching and somewhat it’s very traditionally and then working I always
told everybody I was working to pay for my ranch habit and farming and ranching
in general can be expensive it doesn’t need to be that way seeing how this soil
health movement was progressing I knew there was a better way and so I tried
started to make the transition in 2006 and to my dad’s credit my father who’s
been on board the whole time you know he he readily made the transition with me
because he also could see that there was a better wave we started building our
system in 2006 you know we work with Mother Nature now instead of work
against it we run a multi panic adaptive grazing system so we move cattle every
three to seven days sometimes sooner we use a lot of livestock on our
cropland that we have we use cover crops we use a lot of diversity in our
cropping system and so those are all things that have come along and and we
actually learned all those things from again people before us and my good
fortune to be part of the Burleigh County Soil Conservation District team
so it’s a different lifestyle and it’s a different way of looking at things we
have way more fun ranching it’s not a perfect scenario it’s a-you know and we
learn things every day and that’s kind of what it is like here at the minoan
farm – you learn through doing not everything we do is right there’s
challenges but you’re generally speaking when you manage holistically and you try
to implement the five soil health principles you can make make some make
some headway in this agricultural game the first thing is of course soil armor
we have to protect the soil and we have to feed the soil biology we know very
little about the biological side of soil we know a lot about the chemical and the
physical properties of soil but not the biological and we’re learning more all
the time it’s a kind of a new frontier so you need the armor so obviously you
need to keep the soil protected because in nature’s way that’s what happens
correct there’s grass there’s weeds there’s plants that protect the soil the
other thing is of course when you’re farming could in a production model you
should minimize soil disturbance knowing that there’s life in the soil and the if
you can minimize the disturbance you’re not going to disrupt that so that’s why
we’re big proponents of no-till which is direct seeding minimal disturbance so if
you were seeing an field that was plowed versus one that was no tilled one that
was no tilled would have everything in place on you know the residues would be
there the carbon would be there obviously if
you were plowing or digging it or something or disking you there’d be a
disruption and so you’d see more bare ground is that more difficult the method
that you’re talking about it not really because you can with today’s equipment
it’s getting better and better all the time it in a sense maybe it is more
difficult but it’s only because of the paradigms that you know and it’s human
nature we tend to you know we get stuck into doing certain things and we don’t
want to want to be different as well because that’s the way grandpa did it
and that’s the way I know how to do it and then of course plant diversity is
huge again you want to look at all four crop types cool season and warm season
broad leaves cool season and warm season grasses so in nature if you looked
across a native landscape you would see all kinds of diversity I can take you to
some very pristine rangeland not even necessarily my own that probably has 125
different species of things on it generally speaking yes that’s Nature’s
Way and again it’s in our heads and that’s neither good nor bad but there’s
a simplicity human nature and that’s the European farming model we want to
simplify things and that’s why you see a lot of corn and that’s why you see a lot
of beans soybeans you know and that’s why in California you see fields of
lettuce nothing but lettuce and nothing but carrots and you know and vegetables
and things like that then we have the continual live root scenario and again
in nature generally speaking you can have a continual live root and what that
means is is you want something growing as long as possible because the root
exudates and stuff that all helps feed the system
so when you don’t have something going you have what they call a fallow period
and then of course you’re not feeding anything we don’t use enough cover crops
is what we just don’t and so there’s windows of opportunity
where we could be planting things instead of let’s say we harvest a wheat
crop we plant the wheat and latter April early May and we harvest it in latter
July early August now in our climate our first frost generally speaking on
average comes about the 15th of September but it’s sometimes very much
longer than that so what we’re saying by keeping a continual live plant we could
recede something let it grow and fill that void in there as a window and
that’s what we call cover crops the fifth one it is a huge one and it’s easy
for someone like with my background because of the farm and the ranching
part his livestock integration so we put cattle back out on the land and
especially in the crop land snaps when we let him do what cows do you know we
graze cover crops they spread their dung and urine all over and the hoof action
of course there’s a synergy between the biology of a cow or animals in general
I’ll say but I’ll use cows as an example because that’s what I know
there’s a synergy between the biology of the cow and the soil and it’s quite
remarkable and I’m really not smart enough to figure it all out
but I know it’s there and and it works so
when you employ all the five soil health principles you know you’re well on your
way to creating a regenerative we don’t use conservation term as much as we used
to because we really don’t want to conserve a degraded resource and it’s
nobody’s fault but you know we’ve degraded the resource and because our
production model and stuff is is broken and then when we degrade the resource or
when we use a degraded resource it’s like anything what’s the first thing you
have to do you have to prop it up with inputs and so then your chemical and
your fertilizer fungicides insecticides come into play we use the term a lot
healthy soils healthy plants healthy animals healthy people there’s a tie-in
with all that because that’s how it is and that’s how it was meant to be when
we can have healthy soil we can do all those things we can deliver healthy
plants and we can deliver healthy animals and give the consumer what they
want and then thus I think we’ll have healthier people the minoan farm is an
education area you hear the term feed the world a lot and we throw that around
a lot in conventional agriculture I think our philosophy well I shouldn’t
say I think I think you know I know our philosophy out here is more or less to
educate the people and empower them to feed themselves and and that’s a
different approach and I look at that too on my own farm and ranch I don’t
know if it’s Derral Oswald’s job to feed the world
I I didn’t want to feed and yes I want to provide him a good quality wholesome
nutrient-dense project product but I know I’m not going to feed him all by
myself but I’d like to educate them so they can feed themselves I think in the
long run I think we’d be better off there’s not many Minoan farms out there
there’s not many conservation education demonstration farms for a variety of
reasons I believe but but we are a rarity and I think that adds to our
popularity today we see more research-based things happening more
reductionist science things and we kind of stay away from that demonstration
farm where we can show real life examples of successes and failures we
get people from all over the world and all over the United States there’s a
movement out there that that’s occurring and it’s a it’s a close-knit community
and they tend to gravitate to those spots that where they can learn and the
production agriculture model is probably doesn’t work like it should
all the time and I think the soil health movement provides those individuals with
an alternative moving forward so the consumer I think is going to drive what
occurs down the road and and we’d like to think here at the Monacan farm were
ahead of the curve and and so no one likes to get regulated and told what to
do but if we can be ahead of the curve and get there already and find ways to
improve on that I think that’s a positive a lot of things that make our
us great are some of the things that that slow us down as well because you
know we have a heritage we have a tradition we have all those things and
and in production agriculture to overcome or to change some things
it doesn’t take weeks or a couple of years like a dozen private industry it
takes decades so if you could predict the future the next 50 years what where
do you think the agriculture industry will be I think that again there’s room
for all production models into the system I think that you will see more of
a turn to the regenerative type of agriculture
that we promote and impress upon people here at the benefit farm and I think
it’ll be I think it would be because people want to but I also think that it
may become a necessity because there’s only an infinite amount of good water
soil and we’ve touched on a lot of it already but we need to need to bring
some of that back and regenerate it I just think that this is the way forward
so it’s a journey we’re learning all the time myself as as an agricultural
producer other agricultural producers I know my mentors and stuff like that
they’re not stopping because you really that’s not in them and so you you’re
moving forward you’re always trying to make it better it excites me when we
have a lot of young producers here obviously because we’d like to think
that we’re getting them off on the right foot we’ve got children that come out
kids but we also have people urban people that come out because again they
want to recognize and identify processes that are better I would say that 10 to
15 percent of the whole farming and ranching community is really really
focused on soil health and implementing all five principles the more principles
that you can utilize the quicker and better you
get on your road and get on your path it requires a thinking process so it’s
human nature to want to simplify everything and all that we’re all that
we’re all wired that way but with the systems approach to agriculture you know
there’s a thought process that occurs the doors are always open and you know
we welcome maybe this isn’t such a good thing to say but I don’t think we’ve
ever turned anyone down yet and you know confirmed as a model you know for what
they want to do is so the good news is is that’s occurring albeit maybe not as
fast as you’d all like but it but it is occurring I think there’s more places
out there and the other positive note is again you know all this regenerative
agriculture you know the the problems that occur in production agriculture are
all fixable and so that’s the good news isn’t and I think a place like the
minoan farm shows that and will continue to forge on and do what we do here so

6 thoughts on “The Importance of Soil Health in Agriculture | Menoken Farm | Holistic Farming

  • Was raised on a farm in the 40s and 50s. This is more like the way we farmed back then with a lot of animals on the land. No large amount of chemicals were used or needed. The rivers were also full of fish. Now they are learning in arid parts of Africa how to regenerate the soil by using a lot of animals on the land. They are turning arid land back into grasslands, the wild life is returning, the soil is rebuilding and no longer blowing away during the dry periods. So much of our good top soil has been washed away in the midwest. This demonstration farm is on the right track and would be a good model to use to conserve and improve our soil for future generations. Thanks for making this interesting video.

  • Thank you for making this video. I'll bet you really enjoyed visiting the Farm and talking with Mr. Oswald. I like that there are places like Menoken Farms that allow others from all over the world to come and see first hand what they are doing, learning, and discovering as they find a better way to regenerate the soil. (I like the word regeneration so much better than conservation.) And to take the time to share and teach those interested in soil regeneration is a worthy endeavor indeed.

  • Thank you, Mr Oswald for sharing your thoughts / info about such an important issue. My takeaway after viewing the video is that we, collectively in the US, should share responsibility in supporting / promoting practices that will result in a healthier and thriving environment. I very much enjoyed the video. Passion and love of the land was written all over your face. Respectfully, RC

  • What a great interview! I learned so much about how important it is to regenerate the soil to secure the viability of crops. It was evident during the interview, that Mr.Oswald has not only the education and experience, but the heart for farming/ranching. Looks like he made the right choice to return home to farming.

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