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14. Keith Byerly – How Relationships Build Soil Health

Precision ag/Data, SHP team

When Keith Byerly made the transition from Precision Ag Manager on the ag retail side of the industry to Soil Health Partnership (SHP) on the education and research side of the industry, he didn’t realize the two roles would feel so similar.

“Being a trusted advisor on the grower’s farm, you’re working on a relationship with those growers because that’s where it all starts and stops. Having a good relationship is paramount to success in that [sales] role. When we talk about soil health and helping our farmers through the process of adapting management practices on their farms, it’s all about the relationships there as well,” Byerly said.

Byerly is fortunate to be working for SHP with many of the same farmers he worked with in previous roles. He has already invested significant time in the relationships that make him a resource for all sorts of troubleshooting and idea implementation on the farm.

In this new role, he has been seeing that there’s so much more happening than he realized in previous experiences. Byerly says there’s opportunity to make farms better if every expert the farmer trusts is brought into all conversations.

“There’s the production side and then there’s the conservation side, and farmers don’t see them crossing. But the potential to maximize efforts all the way around the farm exists if the communication is there to loop everybody in. I think all of us kind of build our silos and we don’t think that anything needs to travel between the two,” Byerly said.

The relationships Byerly has built with his farmers help him understand their motivation to add a conservation practice and really develop that practice into something that will work for the long-term.

“I’ve never met a grower that didn’t have legacy on their mind when it came to their operations. They are always concerned about making the right choices…and that means that their children or grandchildren, or that the next person in line has the ability to take it over,” he said. 

Keith continued by explaining how impossible it is to incentivize or force a farmer’s conservation commitment. He views his job as helping farmers figure out what their legacy dictates for their farm and driving that with conservation practices.

Listen in to this broad ranging conversation – touching on Keith’s philosophies on engagement and relationships, to his experience with farm data and irrigation in the western Corn Belt – using the player above or in your favorite podcast app.