Michigan farms host Soil Health Academies

Join MSU Extension and local farmers to learn more about regenerative agriculture.

People standing in a crop field.
Photo by Tammy Nelson

Soil health and regenerative agriculture are hot buzzwords in farming. This past summer, JNelson Farms in Hope, Michigan, hosted a Soil Health Academy to train farmers, researchers, food advocates and educators on soil health and regenerative agriculture principles focusing on adaptive grazing. According to the Midland Daily News, “Students came from eight states, including Michigan, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Armenia.” The training was useful as farmers explored how the principles could be applied to their farm operations.

Black Swamp Cattle Co. posted on Facebook after attending the 2023 Michigan academy, “The Understanding Ag team did an excellent job working to help us better understand the observations we need to make at our farm in order to truly graze in adaptive way. I am excited to take some of the new practices and ideas home to try on our operation. If you ever get the chance to attend a Soil Health Academy, I cannot recommend it enough. It was a great balance of in-class education as well as real world application in the field. This crew of folks is nothing short of a wealth of knowledge!”

Michigan State University Center for Regenerative Agriculture in conjunction with Michigan State University Extension supports hosting of Soil Health Academies in Michigan. While the academies focus on training farmers and ranchers, many researchers, Extension educators and other farm advisors find the training to be eye-opening and beneficial.

A man sitting in a forage field.
Photo by Soil Health Academy

Each year, the Soil Health Academy team works with 10 farms in the U.S. and Canada to host the three-day training. The schools highlight the host’s progress towards regenerative agriculture in their context. This includes not only their location context but also their type of operation. Many producers are predominantly grazers, but others raise row crops, vegetables, or orchards.

This fall in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Soil Health Academy will be exploring advanced grazing skills, which will build on those developed at the 2023 Soil Health Academy at JNelson Farm. Sweeten Farms will host the 2024 academy on Sept. 10-12 on their farm near Dafter, Michigan. This Soil Health Academy will focus on the following:

  • The power of observation
  • How to restore vibrant ecosystems through adaptive grazing
  • Selecting cattle to fit their environment and be low-maintenance
  • Develop cattle to perform and finish on forage
  • Added pasture diversity, yield, and quality through adaptive grazing
  • Use of bale grazing to regenerate soils
  • Reduce inputs to improve profitability
  • Build a more resilient ecosystem on your farm

The Soil Health Academy does limit attendance to 50 and registration is currently open. Instructors will include experienced regenerative ranchers and farmers. This includes Understanding Ag and Soil Health Academy founders Allen Williams and Gabe Brown, Understanding Ag consultant Luke Jones, and host and Understanding Ag consultant, Jeremy Sweeten. Find out how to register here: Upcoming Soil Health Academy Schools.

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