I figured Manning, AB in Alberta’s Peace River region would be a good place to re-launch this blog that has been sitting dormant way too long. I arrived in Manning Wednesday afternoon –about 900 clicks north of Calgary — to attend the first-in-Canada Soil Health Academy School. (I’m sure I will be filled with so much knowledge and respect for soil by the time I leave Saturday afternoon that you’d be wise never to use the word “dirt” around me again.
The Soil Health Academy School has been staged in many parts of the U.S. and thanks to the persuasive talents of Nora Paulovich, manager North Peace Applied Research Association (NPARA) she managed to book the school for two sessions at the NPARA research farm just outside Manning this week.
The first three-day school with about 40 farmers and ranchers attending wrapped up today (Wednesday) and the second session runs Thursday through Saturday with the second batch of 35 to 40 producers.
All Nora had to mention is that if I got here by 6 p.m. there was a free bbq, so I moved heaven and earth, broke some land speed records and even passed up an opportunity to get mini-donuts at the Calgary Stampede to be here. And besides I haven’t be up to this research farm for several years and figured it was time I went.
For anyone who has been around grazing management and the notion of using multispecies in pasture mixtures over the past 10 years or more, they are probably familiar with the name of North Dakota rancher Gabe Brown. He’s given many presentations on the benefits of using multi-species of grasses and legumes in pasture mixes to producers across Canada.
Brown is one of the founders and presenters during the Soil Health school, but he is not alone. He is joined in the three-day school by:
Dr. Ray Archuleta, a certified professional soil scientist with the Soil Science Society of America. He has over 30 year’s experience as a soil conservationist, water quality specialist, and conservation agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Dr. Allen Williams is a champion of the grass-fed beef industry and an expert in grazing methodology and regenerative agriculture. Williams helps restore soil health for improved water retention, reduced runoff, increased land productivity, enhanced plant and wildlife biodiversity, and healthier food.
And Dr. Kris Nichols a world-renowned leader in the movement to regenerate soils “for healthy food, healthy people and a healthy planet by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production, sequestering carbon in soil, and providing abundant and nutritious food”.
I’m not sure what to expect, but I’ve heard that producers attending the school come away with a paradigm shift in their thinking of forage and grazing management.
I don’t think it will be one of those Oral Roberts events (for those who remember) — hear the “message”, threw down your crutches and walk again — it’s not like that. But I’m expecting there will be some real take home messages on how to produce more productive forages, while improving soil health, and putting more pounds of beef on cattle. Stay tuned…
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]