It started with a vision to share the hope in healthy soil. On August 22, 2017, the Soil Health Academy (SHA) kicked off its first, three-day, regenerative farming school at soil health pioneer Gabe Brown’s ranch near Bismarck, North Dakota.
Today, the non-profit organization is celebrating its fifth year of operation while also announcing plans to expand its efforts to help farmers and ranchers successfully and profitably apply nature’s time-proven, regenerative agriculture principles and practices in their respective operations.
Founded by Ray Archuleta, Gabe Brown, David Brandt and Allen Williams, SHA’s world-renowned instructors have conducted scores of three-day schools and specialty workshops across the country, teaching hundreds of farmers, ranchers and educators from around the globe the transformative power of soil health-improving regenerative agriculture.
“Since its first school five years ago, SHA has been at the forefront of providing practical, on-farm education and support to producers so they can grow healthier soil, profits, food and futures,” said SHA President Dawn Brietkreutz. A U.S. Air Force veteran and regenerative farmer, Brietkreutz and her husband Grant operate Stoney Creek Farm near Redwood Falls, Minnesota, which has been the host site for numerous SHA schools and workshops throughout the past five years. She is also an original member of SHA’s board of directors.
“Transitioning from chemical- and tillage-dependent conventional farming requires farmers and ranchers to possess a significantly higher level of understanding of soil health-improving regenerative farming principles,” Breitkreutz said. “Knowledge, observation, understanding and problem-solving skills are key to the successful application of regenerative agricultural systems—and SHA’s schools have a proven track record of helping producers achieve those objectives.”
In its most recent poll, more than two-thirds of SHA graduates reported experiencing both positive soil resource and economic improvements while transitioning from conventional to regenerative agricultural practices. More than a third of its graduates reported reducing synthetic fertilizer and/or pesticide use by 30 percent or more.
Brietkreutz said today’s “five-year regeneration celebration” also represents an important opportunity to scale up the transformative power of farming in nature’s image.
“During the past five years, producer interest in regenerative agriculture has grown considerably, as has the community of generous individuals, corporations and NGOs who continue to partner with SHA to expand and accelerate our education and farmer-support operations,” Brietkreutz said. “In addition to developing new learning opportunities and expanding SHA school and scholarship programs, we’re also looking to reach consumers, educators and policy makers through additional outreach and educational platforms in the near- and mid-term,” she said. “So, in addition to helping ensure on-farm regenerative success, we want to help drive consumer awareness, interest and demand for regeneratively grown products, in the months and years ahead.”
Even as the organization marks this historic milestone, co-founder Gabe Brown will be busy hosting another three-day, regenerative farming and ranching school during the week of SHA’s fifth anniversary. According to Brown, these practical, on-farm schools remain the most effective education delivery method to ensure regenerative producer success.
“From the outset, we recognized that producer success was dependent on individuals understanding the six principles of soil health, the three rules of adaptive grazing and the four ecosystem processes,” Brown said. “Understanding how to apply that knowledge within the context of producers’ operations remains the foundation of SHA’s teaching and learning model.”
According to Brown, the future of regenerative agriculture is bright, thanks to all those who represent and support the regenerative farming movement.
“I’m proud of the incredible success of SHA and its graduates over the past five years,” Brown said. “The tireless dedication of SHA’s instructors, staff and board of directors has no doubt played a key role in that success. With continued support from donors and through the on-going hard work of our regenerative farming and ranching community, I know the best years of SHA lie ahead. And that’s great news for the future of our family farms, our food security, our health and our planet.”