Event Postponed: Local soil health event to feature Reinbeck farmer Jack Boyer


June 2 update: This event has been postponed following the passing of featured speaker Dave Brandt. At this time organizers are still scheduling a replacement keynote speaker. Please watch the Sun Courier for updated information.

The Tama and Black Hawk Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will host a free event, Soil Health: A Journey to Profitability, at the Waterloo Center for the Arts on Friday, June 9. Attendance is encouraged for all interested in agricultural production which is both financially and sustainably sound. The event will feature three farmers including Reinbeck farmer Jack Boyer who will discuss their journey incorporating soil health practices into their farming operations and improving their return on investment.

The event’s featured speaker will be central Ohio farmer Dave Brandt, who has over 50 years of experience farming using conservation practices and has become globally associated with soil health. No-till and cover crops are used on his entire operation of over 1,100 acres. He has participated in soil health research projects and corn, soybean, and wheat yield plots using various cover crop species and mixes. In cooperation with Ohio State University, Dave’s current research focuses on reducing input costs of fertilizers and herbicides. Dave has received multiple awards for farming with conservation practices and was the inaugural recipient of the No-till on the Plains David Brandt Soil Legacy Award in 2022. He is also working with the regional NRCS soils lab in Greensboro, NC, on benefits of cover crops to improve soil health.

Jack Boyer will also share his experiences in adopting a suite of soil health practices into his farm’s management and their financial impact. Jack and his wife, Marion, own and operate a Century Farm in nearby rural Reinbeck. He was named a Soil Health Champion by the National Association of Conservation Districts in 2015 for mentoring farmers learning about cover crops and soil health. Jack’s initial interests in cover crops were as a method to maintain soil organic matter when he farmed a seed corn/soybean rotation. After further research and experience, he determined the benefits of cover cropping are also financial, much more than merely maintaining or building organic matter. Jack retired from the John Deere Product Engineering Center in Waterloo in 2011 after over 32 years of engineering tractors. He was raised on a farm in Oklahoma and has been active in agriculture and farming for most of his life.

Local beginning farmer Todd Western is also featured and will share his experiences with soil health practices and their effects on his operation’s bottom line on his family’s farm east of Waterloo. Todd and his family raise corn and soybeans and are incorporating conservation practices on their farm of “light” soils to build organic matter and hold moisture longer. The Westerns’ farm in Mahaska County is one Iowa’s roughly 1,700 Heritage Farms, owned by the family for over 150 years and likely the only one owned by a Black family. Todd’s father was a process engineer with John Deere, which brought the family to the Waterloo area while still operating the Mahaska County farm.

Soil Health: A Journey to Profitability is being offered free of charge, partially due to the generosity of many businesses in Black Hawk and Tama Counties. An RSVP is required, and space is limited. Reservations for this June 9 event may be made by contacting jenna.curran@ia.nacdnet.net or melody.bro@ia.nacdnet.net . You may also call the Black Hawk NRCS office at 319-296-3262, extension 3. Doors at the Schoitz River Room, Waterloo Center for the Arts, will open at 9:00 a.m. Lunch will be provided.