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August 17th, Larimer County Extension hosted the first Larimer County Soil Health Demo Day at River Ranch Farm in Loveland, CO. The event was hosted in collaboration with NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), Larimer Conservation District, Colorado State University, and Rocky Mountain Farmer Union.

A total of 53 farmers, ag specialists, and students attended.  The attendees included six Spanish-speaking women from the Hispanic Women Farming Proyecto. Interpretation was provided.

This was the first event planned by the Soil Health Action Committee under the Larimer County Climate Smart Future Ready Initiative.

Participants toured the farm with farmer Arnfinn Austefjord. Several years ago, Arnfinn's farm was devastated by a flood. He highlighted soil health practices he's been implementing to restore the fields. Participants saw no-till methods, manure management, cover crops, wood chip coverage to reduce weeds, and timed irrigation using soil moisture probes.

Rain simulator at Soil Health Demo Day

 

After the tour, NRCS soil conservationist Alexis (Alix) Emslie used the rainfall simulator to showcase five types of management:

 

  1. Conventional plowing
  2. 2-year no-till fallow
  3. 2-year no-till with actively growing millet
  4. 4-year no-till with alfalfa, corn, and barley
  5. 5-year perennial and active cover crop.

The 5-year perennial and active cover crop saw the most soil water infiltration and the least runoff. But, she emphasized that regenerative management requires patience. Soil takes time to build and needs a living root.

 

A soil pit at Soil Health Demo DayOther activities during Soil Health Demo Day included:

 

  • A slake test
  • pH testing with attendees’ soil - led by Lexi Firth from CSU
  • Microbe brewing (compost tea)
  • Soil pit interpretation demonstration with NRCS Soil Scientists Mary Ellen and Dylan Casey (dug by Andy Steinert)
  • NRCS soil tent
  • Microscope and microbes,
  • Peer-to-peer learning from producers' stories led by Todd Olander with Root Shoot Brewing

Attendees were given a survey after the event. Responses showed:

  • Attendees felt more confident about applying soil health practices on their own properties
  • Attendees had increased knowledge of soil health practices related to agriculture.

Due to the event's success, Larimer County Extension hopes to organize more on-farm soil health demonstration days in the future.

Soil Health Demo Day was funded partly by the CDA STAR (Colorado Department of Agriculture Saving Tomorrow's Agriculture Resources) program.

A group of attendees stand in a field at Soil Health Demo Day
Published on: 
Wednesday, July 3, 2024 - 12:06pm

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