Welcome to 2020 – SHP’s Next Phase

SHP Senior Director, John Mesko, discusses SHP’s plan for 2020 and beyond. John discusses the impact of building soil health as a primary emphasis in agriculture and the need for a focus on farming resiliency. He highlights what SHP has learned in order to advance SHP work into the future, discusses SHP’s role in addressing soil health changes and their impact on farms, and the role SHP plays in the soil health community.

Soil Sessions is a webinar series by the Soil Health Partnership that provides monthly, in-depth updates on various SHP programs and research findings. Soil Sessions covers a range of topics such as our evolving data insights, how SHP manages and integrates data, our connection to and work with our partners, as well as providing technical information on topics like cover crops, scouting and grazing. To view all SHP webinars, visit our website here.

Commodity Classic SHP Educational Sessions

Commodity Classic brings together farmers from across the country to network and learn from their peers. Hosted by farmers, for farmers, it is hailed as the largest farmer-led, farmer-focused agricultural and educational event in the country.

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is attending Commodity Classic and is hosting a series of educational sessions throughout the three-day gathering. SHP is hosting two Soil Sessions LIVE events at the trade show booth. These 10-minute conversations take place on Thursday and Friday in booth #1945.

Take a look at the list of SHP events below and visit our Facebook page to stay updated on these events.

Thursday, February 27

  • 8:15 – 9:45 a.m – What’s New? Session: Carbon Insetting Framework Providing Opportunities to Growers, What’s New Session Meeting Room*
  • 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. – Soil Sessions LIVE: Media Preview, Booth #1945 
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m – What’s New? Session: Carbon Insetting Framework Providing Opportunities to Growers, Main Stage of Trade Show*
  • 1:00 p.m. – Soil Sessions LIVE: Field Manager Maddy Rabenhorst will discuss transitioning to no-till, Booth #1945

*About this What’s New? session: During this session we will discuss what carbon insetting is, how it helps growers and how the model fits into the broader landscape of carbon markets. SHP, along with various partners, received a Conservation Innovation Grant in 2016 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.  The purpose of the grant was to create a carbon accounting and insetting framework that would enable companies along the supply chain to encourage their farmer growers to adopt conservation practices such as planting cover crops and reducing tillage in order to sequester carbon in the soil. As we wrap up the grant, the framework is ready for other companies to apply in order to achieve on-farm emissions reductions. The framework employs a low-cost, low-touch verification model tool and models soil organic carbon reductions to scale the benefits across supply chains.

Friday, February 28

  • 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m – Seeds of Change Award Winner Presentation, Booth #1945
  • 11:00 a.m. – Soil Sessions LIVE: Field Manager Lisa Kubik will discuss cover crops, Booth #1945
  • 1:00 p.m. – Soil Sessions LIVE: Meet SHP Lead Scientist Dr. Maria Bowman, Booth #1945
  • 2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. – Learning Session: Assessing & Expanding Soil Health for Production, Economic and Environmental Benefits: The FFAR Soil Health Collaboration, Room 302*

*About this Learning Session: SHP, Soil Health Institute and The Nature Conservancy will share how we are working together to apply soil health research in a practical way for farmers and landowners. Growers will leave the session with a broader knowledge of the items they should be testing for to measure soil health on their farm and be able to compare it with data published by other organizations including Soil Health Institute and SHP. They will also learn tips and tactics on how to discuss soil health practices with their landowners in order to help their landowners understand the benefits of implementing these practices and incentivize further adoption on their farms.

We hope you will join us!

Dustin Brucker Joins SHP as Field Manager

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is pleased to announce Dustin Brucker as the new Field Manager for western Iowa, joining the team of nine SHP Field Managers.

Dustin grew up on his family’s corn and soybean farm in Illinois. He earned his undergraduate degree in Agriculture Business and his master’s degree in Seed Technology and Business from Iowa State University.

After graduation, he accepted a position with Monsanto in their Maui, Hawaii corn trait integration facility. Upon returning to Iowa, Dustin worked in corn yield trial testing and eventually landed in logistics where he was responsible for the data collection, management, and quality assurance of the corn trials.

“I have grown up around agriculture and have spent my career in agriculture. I look forward to working with growers to maximize their soil potential and establish great quality soil for years to come. I’m eager to get started and begin problem solving with the team,” said Brucker.

“Dustin brings a breadth of industry knowledge, and we are eager to add him to our Field Team. His expertise in data management and ensuring adequate communication is vital to the sampling we do. Our Iowa farmers are going to benefit greatly by having Dustin as an extension of their operation,” commented Jack Cornell, SHP Field Team Director.

Jacob Ness is transitioning to the role of Geospatial Data Analyst to provide additional support for data processing, cleaning, analysis, and management to follow his passion for data.

Elyssa McFarland Named Development Manager

The Soil Health Partnership is excited to welcome Elyssa McFarland as our Development Manager.

As Development Manager, Elyssa will build and maintain SHP’s broad spectrum of partnerships, expanding the resource base for the important work of building soil health and creating a sustainable future for farming and food. She joins a strong national team that is focused on identifying and sharing the economic and environmental benefits of varied soil management strategies and providing a set of regionally specific, data‑driven recommendations that farmers can use to improve the productivity and sustainability of their farms.

Elyssa is no stranger to the SHP family. She previously served as a Field Manager for Iowa and Missouri and assisted with SHP development work before returning to her family’s farm in Iowa.

“We are eager to have Elyssa’s support in building partnerships and nurturing relationships at SHP. She brings a breadth of soil health knowledge understands our mission very well,” said John Mesko, SHP Senior Director.

Elyssa McFarland was raised on a grain and livestock farm east of Columbus Junction, Iowa. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University and dual Master’s degrees in Agronomy and Soil Science from the University of Wisconsin.

Elyssa resides in southeast Iowa.

SHP Educates Hill Staffers on Soil Health

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) today co-hosted a field day for U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committee staff at Harborview Farms in Rock Hall, Md. Staffers had the opportunity to learn more about soil health management practices being implemented at Harborview Farms.

“This field day was a unique opportunity for legislative staffers to see first hand the benefits and challenges farmers face adopting soil health practices. Farmers across the country invest in these practices because they believe in the indirect and long-term benefits such as healthy soils for their future generations, creating increased land resiliency and knowing they are giving back to the land that sustains us. It is an important story to tell, and we are thrilled to have legislative partners attend these educational events,“ John Mesko, Senior Director of SHP said.

Practices that improve soil health are taking on elevated importance as a means to protect topsoil, helping farmers manage extreme weather, increase profitability, protect water quality, and sequester carbon.

Harborview Farms owner and operator, Trey Hill, explained the need to improve soil management practices with each generation. He discussed the impact of being a pioneer in the industry and how it has affected his farm. Hill utilizes cover crops, roller crimper, and no till, soil health management practices that have resulted in increased profitability.

Congressional staffers stepped inside a Soil Pit to witness how diverse cover crop species impact row crop systems. Staffers were able to interact with SHP Field Managers to understand the lock-step relationship between SHP farmers and Field Managers. They also learned about some of the challenges facing growers who decide to change their management systems to focus more on soil health. Some of these challenges include changing or upgrading equipment, changing planting and harvesting timelines, adjusting for different pest and weed pressures, and figuring out how to pay for it all.

In addition, Soil Health Partnership Lead Scientist, Maria Bowman, explained the unique role SHP plays in providing technical assistance to farmers like Hill.

The field day was held in collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Technology along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory.

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About the Soil Health Partnership

The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. Administered by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 16 states. SHP’s mission is to utilize science and data to partner with farmers who are adopting conservation agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm. For more information, visit https://soilhealthpartnership.org.

About the National Corn Growers Association

Founded in 1957, the National Corn Growers Association represents nearly 40,000 dues-paying corn farmers nationwide and the interests of more than 300,000 growers who contribute through corn checkoff programs in their states. NCGA and its 50 affiliated state associations and checkoff organizations work together to create and increase opportunities for their members and their industry.

Media Contact:

Stacie McCracken, SHP Communications Lead,  

Liz Friedlander, NCGA Communications,  

Mesko To Lead SHP as Senior Director

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is pleased to announce John Mesko as Senior Director of the organization. Mesko leads SHP leveraging a farmer-focused mission, a strong internal team and a growing community of collaboration.

Mesko is expanding the resource base for the important work of building soil health and creating a sustainable future for farming and food.

“The national discussion about soil health in agriculture has ushered improvements in farming practices with the potential to mitigate climate change, revitalize rural communities, and feed the world. The Soil Health Partnership’s leading work of bringing together nonprofit, government, and commercial interests in support of farmer-led understanding and promotion of these practices is at the heart of this discussion,” Mesko said.

The SHP network now spans over 16 states and 100 partner organizations at the federal, state and county levels including state government, commodity associations, nonprofits, foundations and private companies.

“I am thrilled to serve with such an outstanding, motivated group of experts at SHP, and grateful for the support and encouragement of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA),” commented Mesko.

“We are eager to have John Mesko lead the program and the strong SHP national team to continue building on the success of the past five years. John’s extensive background in agriculture is an asset to SHP and the farmers we serve. SHP is a vital, farmer led program, that is supported by a diverse group of organizations including our founding members: The Nature ConservancyEnvironmental Defense Fund and Bayer,” commented Nathan Fields, NCGA Vice President, Production and Sustainability.

John previously served as the Development Director for SHP.

He holds a BS degree in Agronomy and a MS degree in Agricultural Economics, both from Purdue University.  His diverse career in agriculture includes successful experience in sales, marketing, research, business development, farm management, university extension, and nonprofit management.

He grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm in Minnesota, gaining a passion for farming and tremendous respect for farmers.

John resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has two daughters and enjoys competitive indoor rowing.

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About the Soil Health Partnership

The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. Administered by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 16 states. SHP’s mission is to utilize science and data to partner with farmers who are adopting conservation agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm. For more information, visit https://soilhealthpartnership.org.

Media Contact:

Stacie McCracken, SHP Communications Lead,  

Dr. Aaron Brooker Joins SHP

Dr. Aaron Brooker recently joined the Soil Health Partnership’s (SHP) growing team as a Research Fellow. In this newly created role, Dr. Brooker is supporting the SHP integration into the GEMS data platform at the University of Minnesota and is developing an independent research project with SHP data.

“We are looking forward to having Dr. Brooker’s expertise onboard at SHP. He is going to be a great asset as he cleans and analyzes SHP yield data. SHP farmers will be seeing a lot of Dr. Brooker over the next year as he gets out in the field,” said Dr. Maria Bowman, SHP Lead Scientist.

Dr. Brooker grew up in Waterford, Ohio on a small grain and livestock farm. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy from The Ohio State University. He recently completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University where he researched cover crops interseeded in corn in a unique project combining agronomy, weed science, soil health and remote sensing.

“I am eager to review SHP’s data and identify how it can best serve SHP and farmers,” said Dr. Brooker. “I am passionate about identifying research activities that directly benefit farmers and have been fortunate to work closely with farmers and do a lot of on-farm research that has given me a greater understanding of the issues farmers are dealing with.”

Aaron and his wife currently reside in Lansing, Michigan. He enjoys playing sports and being active outdoors in all seasons, whether it is swimming, camping and hiking in the summer, or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

Poley Joins SHP as Michigan Research Manager

The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is pleased to announce Kristin Poley as the Michigan Research Manager. Poley will be in a joint research position with the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan (CMPM), The Nature Conservancy in Michigan, and SHP with the primary responsibility to build research partnerships to answer key soil health and water quality questions.

“Agriculture in this era presents challenges to growers, markets, and the general public,” said Kristin. “Being able to work as part of a team that takes a focus on sustainability to overcome those challenges makes me really excited to get to work.”

“Soil health is the key to the future of sustainable and productive farming in Michigan,” noted Mary Fales, The Nature Conservancy’s program director for Saginaw Bay. “The Nature Conservancy is proud to play a role in this partnership, designed to bring more soil health research to Michigan. “

In her role at CMPM, Poley will manage the research portfolio and grant program as well as help organize the annual Great Lakes Crop Summit.

At SHP, Poley will work closely with lead scientist, Maria Bowman and will be the liaison for the SHP expansion into Michigan, augmenting the existing site, and supporting analysis of data already being collected throughout the multi-state network. It is critical to locate partnering farms in the state to generate soil health data that’s meaningful for local farmers.

Poley obtained her bachelor’s degree in fishery and wildlife biology and master’s degree in Entomology from Michigan State University. She resides in St. Johns, Michigan with her husband, Nathan on a few acres raising chickens, geese, and ducks.

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About the Soil Health Partnership

The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. Administered by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 16 states. SHP’s mission is to utilize science and data to partner with farmers who are adopting conservation agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm. For more information, visit https://soilhealthpartnership.org.

Media Contact:

Stacie McCracken, SHP Communications Lead,  

SHP Announces Open Positions

As the Soil Health Partnership heads into its fifth year of long term data collection on working farms, the organization is hiring for several roles to support its expanding footprint. Open roles include Development Director, a Michigan Research Manager, Soil Health Kansas-Nebraska Field Manager, and Soil Health Minnesota Field Manager.

The Soil Health Partnership Development Director plays a critical role in leading the relationships and partnership development for the SHP. The Development Director will provide internal support to the Soil Health Partnership Executive Director and work closely with the team of National Directors. This position will partner with the Soil Health Partnership National staff to build a comprehensive partnership and relationship plan to ensure long-term support of our unique on-farm science program. The Development Director will manage and maintain our partnership database with our myriad of partners across sectors - farmers, government agencies, state commodity groups, private companies, NGOs and others. The position will also provide oversight of and contribution to communication efforts.

The Michigan Soil Health Research Manager will provide technical assistance and research collaboration for the Soil Health Partnership and Corn Marketing Program of Michigan. This position manages and maintains knowledge to connect and leverage relationships/networks, research and communication tools, and information to increase effectiveness and efficiency across relevant agricultural and non-agricultural networks. This unique role weds local application in the Michigan geography with the national focus and structure of Soil Health Partnership.

Based in either Kansas or Nebraska, the Soil Health Kansas-Nebraska Field Manager will provide technical assistance and educational resources to the SHP Farm Network farmers and surrounding community members. This position manages and maintains knowledge to connect and leverage relationships/networks, research and communications tools, and information to increase effectiveness and efficiency across relevant agricultural and non-agricultural networks in the assigned territory.

Based in Minnesota, the Soil Health Minnesota Field Manager will provide technical assistance and educational resources to the Soil Health Partnership Farm Network farmers and surrounding community members. This position manages and maintains knowledge to connect and leverage relationships/networks, research and communications tools, and information to increase effectiveness and efficiency across relevant agricultural and non-agricultural networks in the assigned territory.

To apply, send a resume and cover letter to  .

An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, SHP’s goal is to quantify the benefits of soil health-promoting practices from an economic as well as environmental standpoint, showing farmers how healthy soil benefits their bottom line.

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About the Soil Health Partnership

The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health, benefiting both farmer profitability and the environment. SHP’s mission is using science and data to support farmers in adopting practical agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm. Administered by the National Corn Growers Association, the partnership has more than 140 working farms enrolled in 14 states. The SHP brings together broad and diverse partners to work towards common goals, with initial and continuing funding and guidance from NCGA, Bayer, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, The General Mills Foundation, Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, National Wheat Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Walton Family Foundation. For more, visit SoilHealthPartnership.org.

Media Contact:

Stacie McCracken   937-638-5117

Thank You, Elyssa McFarland!

Agriculture is a family business. Roles and responsibilities of that business evolve and change throughout the seasons. It’s bittersweet to announce that Elyssa McFarland, Development Director, is leaving the Soil Health Partnership staff to manage her family’s farm in southeast Iowa. Elyssa’s last day with SHP is March 19th.

Elyssa joined SHP in 2015 as a Field Manager for Iowa and then also Missouri. She was promoted to Key Relationships Director in 2017 and then Development Director in 2018.

“From growing up on the farm to a classroom at ISU to a lab bench in Madison, Wisconsin, I always knew that there was more to managing soils on the farm than fertilizer prescriptions and conservation plans,” said Elyssa. “However, I did not know until I joined SHP in 2015 that this knowledge could be measurable, actionable, and communicated.”

Elyssa’s love and passion for soil health are evident. Whether enrolling over 20 farmers in Iowa and Missouri, leading a breakout session or panel discussion, or hosting over 50 engagement events, Elyssa was dedicated to building the SHP community.

“Elyssa gave a wealth of knowledge and desire to improving how SHP interacts with our soils data. She always had a grounded perspective of making sure what we do is relatable to growers, whether it is a new soil sampling procedure or partnership,” said Field Team Director Jack Cornell. “Elyssa was a person that you could feed off her passion and energy towards improving soil health and how it relates to farm economics.”

“It is not often that we get to lead teams with exceptional people, and I was able to experience that by working with Elyssa. She leads with her passion and her expertise. She perpetually looked to improve our work for the farmers and challenged us to see better solutions. She will be quite missed by us but agriculture is lucky to have an individual like her,” shared Executive Director, Shefali Mehta.

True to her character, Elyssa will quickly remind everyone she will continue to work closely with the soil in her new role and she is only a phone call away.

“I have learned so much through this program and will miss each of the farmers, team members, and partners so much. Please know that I am always happy to chat about what is happening on your farms and would love to hear from you from time to time,” Elyssa said.

“And if you are ever in SE Iowa, please feel free to text or call. It would be great to have you visit the farm!”

Please join us in thanking Elyssa for her service to SHP. She will be missed, but we look forward to working with her in this new capacity.