Willing to Bet the Farm there's a Better Way to Improve Soil Health


A North Dakota rancher tells Nebraska farmers they can make money even if corn prices drop to two dollars.

"I will bet my farm against yours that I can get it working anywhere in the world," Gabe Brown said.

It's a bold claim by Brown, who says if farmers take care of the soil, it'll take care of them.

He said, "We need to get back to the point the soils can provide the necessary needs of the plants."

Gabe Brown argues farming has gotten too easy, especially for those looking for natural solutions.

"Instead they want to sell you herbicide," he told an audience in Hastings.

In the soil health movement, farmers plant cover crops -- stuff like radishes and turnips, even something called hairy vetch to recharge the soil, and also to graze cattle on.

Brown said, "By moving to a biological model, we've become a low cost producer where we're now highly profitable. Corn can drop to $2 a bushel I can still make money. There's not many who can say that."

With more regulations on water and chemical use, and rising costs for those, many say now's the time to explore these options.

But that can be a tough sell in the Cornhusker state.

Ron Bolze of the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition said, "Fully 98–99 percent of land in Nebraska is privately owned, so we depend on individual landowners to manage grasses and conserve that natural resource long term."

So the Grazing Lands Coalition works with the University of Nebraska to educate farmers who've got the drive, farmers like Steve Frink of St. John, Kan.

"I drove four hours," to get to Hastings for the workshop, he explained.

The goal is for more no-till and less chemical inputs.

Frink said, "If you farm, you're given a gift of taking care of the land and putting everything in that kills everything is not being a good steward of the land."

Gabe Brown says it's easy to make money when commodity prices are high as they've been the last few years, but he says this is a different mindset.

"The real profit and real satisfaction comes in what are you passing on to the next generation," he explained.

There will be another workshop November 20 in Scotia from 5-9 p.m. at the community center, and one in Ainsworth from 10-1 on November 21. Contact local UNL Extension offices for details.

Learn more about Gabe Brown's ranch on his website.