Well, where do I start? After almost one year at Continuum Ag, my journey has led me back
home, to get away from the ice-cold Iowa winter to a rather hot South Africa! I can’t
complain about wearing shorts and a t-shirt! During my time at Continuum, it’s safe to say that I
received a master’s degree from Mitchell in regenerative ag. What better place to learn
about the topic than in the Midwest?
So much to write about here, but with so little space to write it. I think it will be a good idea
to share my main takeaways from the year with regards to what I’ve learnt, what’s
resonated and what I think are the most important topics. If I can narrow it down to four
main topics, I’d put them in no particular order of importance, but: the Haney test, starting
small, diversity is key and Continuum Ag’s resources.
They Haney test: For me, any farmer that is implementing regen ag practices, or at least
wants to start out and get a baseline of where their soil health is, needs this test. Having
those organic components measured not only helps you better understand your nutrient
pool, but also helps you reduce fertilizer costs and right now, who doesn’t want that!
Start small: Farming is difficult as it is, so when shifting to these practices, be sure to take
small steps to achieve a larger goal. In terms of cover crops, find a species, see what works
for you and then expand from that. No need to go to big too fast. The same goes for almost
anything you implement when aiming to improve soil health. As I like to say: the only way to
eat and elephant is one bite at a time (not that I’ve ever done that)!
Diversity is key: Once you’ve began to see what works for you, expand on that and diversify.
No matter where you are, the native vegetation around your farm is probably 20x more
diverse than your most diverse cover crop. Different root structures, nutrient utilizations
and nutrient cycling from different plants all contribute to a healthier system. This diversity
helps improve water infiltration, water holding capacity, nutrient cycling, builds soil
aggregates and more. It essentially is the insurance you need against most of your weeds,
insect pests and also falls part of your fertilizer program. Diversity doesn’t end in cover crop
species but also in grazing. If you have livestock, animals such as sheep and cattle have
different forage preference, so that also is diversity!
Continuum Ag’s resources: During my time, I got the privilege to meet many pioneers and
leaders in this field. Learning from the likes of Loran Steinlage, Russel Hedrick, Liz Haney,
Rick Haney, Rick Clark and the godfather of regenerative ag, Mr. Dave Brandt. Safe to say it
has been a great learning experience. And that isn’t only referring to farming!
Over the year I’ve learned to love and hate a four wheeler. This is mainly due to the fairly
busy soil sampling schedule. It was the definition of a love- hate relationship. Travelling
through the Midwest and further with Carolyn and Tucker, the trusty co- workers, was a hell
of a time. Super good memories were made and believe it or not, we could get some serious
work done! Thanks to all at Continuum for making me feel welcomed and at home. It’s been
a hell of a year! Till next time.