Soil Health Partnership was born from a shared vision of developing a farmer-led research network that could measure the impacts of implementing soil health practices on working farms. Greg Whitmore of Shelby, Neb. was one of those leading farmers.
One of the original 14 SHP farmers, Greg believes in the soil health mission and has found his work within the partnership to be a fascinating and rewarding experience.
“I joined because I was using cover crops and no-till. I wanted to see if the economic and environmental gains and soil quality were real or just perceived,” he said. “Since joining, I have seen less wind and water erosion and better water infiltration and retention.”
In fact, Greg reports big changes during the heavy rains he sometimes gets on his Nebraska farm. Water infiltration has improved, and he reports getting by with less water because the rainfall he gets is preserved for his crops rather than washing away.
Building soil health requires farmers to take a long-term view of their farm management. Farmers can’t expect massive changes overnight, but Greg reports that when the benefits do begin to emerge, they multiply quickly.
“Improving soil health to me is important because I can sustain with less water, less applied nitrogen and we start recycling those nutrients better within the soil,” Greg says.
He believes it is important for farmers to pay attention to the work of the Soil Health Partnership, in order to learn from the experiences of their peers and build better farms for the future. He says it’s also important for non-farmers to take notice of the work SHP farmers are doing to improve the environment and sustain the land.
“[Farmers] are making efforts to improve our environment. Even with what I’ve accomplished so far, I can always do better.”