1) Can you tell us about your life, your childhood, your family, your adolescence and the moments that have influenced your life and your personality most of all?
I grew up in the city of Bismarck, ND, a city of 70,000 people. I am the 3rd of 4 boys born to a father who worked for a rural electric cooperative and a mother who had her hands full taking care of 4 boys. My childhood was easy, full of fishing, sports and schoolwork. I found school very easy and not challenging, until I took a vocational agriculture course when I was in the 9th grade. I found it fascinating. I could not get enough. I took every agriculture class I could and started working on farms while in high school. I absolutely loved it! Not being from a farm, I thought my best option was to become a teacher of agriculture. That is what I took in college. I got married after two years of college to a gal whose parents had a farm. They expressed an interest in us taking over the farm so I switched my major to agriculture economics and animal science.
2) What education have you received? Why have you chosen this particular area? Have you ever regretted your choice?
I have degrees in both. They were pretty meaningless degrees as I found them extremely easy. Looking back, I wish I would have found more challenging courses but there was no mention of soil health back then.
Upon graduating from college we moved to the farm and worked with her parents for 8 years before purchasing a part of the farm from them.
3) How has your career developed? What has influenced it most of all?
I learned to farm from my father-in-law. He was a "conventional" farmer, tillage, monocultures, lack of diversity. You know my story of 3 years of hail and a year of drought. That was the best thing that could have happened to me. Hard to go through but it changed my life. I was 1.5 million US dollars in debt so I had to figure out how to make the land productive without any added inputs. The saying that changed my life was from Don Campbell, "If you want to make small changes, change the way you do things; if you want to make major changes, change the way you SEE things." Hearing that changed my life. I realized that it was up to ME to change my farm so it could be profitable. That sent me on a lifelong journey of learning.
4) What do you think about the current Conservation Agriculture trends in the world?
I do not think of it as Conservation Agriculture. It needs to be Regenerative Agriculture. I have never been on any farm or ranch, including my own, that is not degraded. We cannot think of sustainability. Why would we want to sustain a degraded resource? There is a movement starting, which is good, to move the world down the regenerative path.
5) Would you advise farmers to adopt CA practices? What major benefits and drawbacks are associated with it?
I advise all farmers and ranchers to learn the 4 ecosystem processes, and the 6 soil health principles. Those are the keys.
6) What role should the government play to stimulate the farmers to adopt Conservation Agriculture practices?
The government needs to get out of the way and allow the free enterprise system to work. In the USA, the government tends to be a hindrance, not a help.
7) How do you see the future of Conservation Agriculture?
Ecosystems will collapse if regenerative agriculture is not practiced.
8) What would you advise the farmers in Russia?
Learn the 4 processes and six principles and then apply them to your farm or ranch.
9) What are your plans for the future in terms of your work and expectations?
I will spend my time educating all who will listen.