Levi and Crystal Neuharth make farming decisions based on the five principles of soil health:
- Keep the soil covered.
- Disturb as little as possible.
- Keep living roots growing as much as possible.
- Include diversity in plant communities.
- Integrate livestock.
Levi is a founding member and current chairman of the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, and the couple took over management of Prairie Paradise Farms, near Fort Pierre, S.D., in 2016.
This commitment to soil health has earned Prairie Paradise Farms the South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award. This was announced on Earth Day by Gov. Kristi Noem and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist, Aldo Leopold, this award recognizes private landowners who inspire others with their dedication to the land, water and wildlife resources in their care.
The crop residue left behind from no-till practices on Prairie Paradise Farms provides a protective armor for the soil, which creates habitat for soil organisms, prevents erosion and evaporation, and keeps out disease, pests and weeds. A diverse rotation of crops lets them capture different markets and spread out the risk from weather events.
The Neuharths raise diverse livestock as well, including a herd of 100 dairy goats and a free-range flock of 150 laying hens. In addition to 4-H projects for their three children — Johnathon, Justin and Kaydee — the goats are a beneficial enterprise for the farm.
Although the Neuharths have been rotationally grazing their 3,000 acres of grasslands since 2010, they do not own any cattle. Their custom-grazing business provides daily monitoring and frequent rotations to fresh pastures for other people’s beef cattle.
Active in a variety of agricultural and community organizations, Prairie Paradise Farms hosts a family day in May, where visitors partake in hands-on educational stations on topics such as livestock, insects, germinating seeds, soil layers and grain identification.
In South Dakota, the award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition. The award will be presented Dec. 1 in Rapid City in conjunction with the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s annual convention and trade show.
Partnership in conservation
With assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and their local conservation district, the Neuharths have also planted nearly 20 miles of trees to create wildlife habitat.
Additional award sponsors include Audubon Dakota, Bad River Ranches, Belle Fourche River Watershed Partnership, Blair Brothers LLC/DBA Blair Brothers Angus Ranch, Cammack Ranch, Daybreak Ranch, Ducks Unlimited Inc., First Dakota National Bank, Kopriva Angus LLC, Millborn Seeds Inc., North Central SARE-Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education, NRCS, Professional Alliance, South Dakota Agricultural Land Trust, South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Section 319 Nonpoint Source Grant via the Discovery Center, South Dakota DANR, South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, South Dakota Game Fish and Parks, South Dakota Pheasants Forever, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, South Dakota State University College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, South Dakota Conservation Districts, The Nature Conservancy, Todd Mortenson Family, U.S. Fish and Wildlife — Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and Wagner Land & Livestock.
For more information on the award, visit leopoldconservationaward.org.Source: South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any