Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Managing Risk and Social Pressure

This 3 minute video is part of the NRCS-sponsored series Soil Health How-To. In this series, Dr. Buz Kloot, visits farms, orchard and vineyards in the West and Southwest to see how they are implementing soil health principles.During his visit to Idaho, Buz meets with farmers Luke Adams and and Brian Kossman to talk about how they’ve beem implementing soil health principles in the form of cover crops and no-till.

And what does that have to do with a grazier?

Well, they’re discussing a kind of social pressure that we all feel from time to time: having to go all in and have amazing results to be considered a success.

As Luke and Brian see it, managing the risks of trying something new and still being a viable business are critical. So even small steps in the right direction are important.

I think it’s a principle that we can all use as we work to improve our landscapes and our bottom line.



Luke Adams, Rupert, Idaho: Once you farm for 30 years, you realize how little control you have over the weather and all these variables, and to add in one new variable doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. It’s, we’ve got to manage the variable we can.

Bu once we started to test those, and see other people test them and say, “OK, this is a manageable variation, putting in soil health principles.” It’s not making all this unknown and uncertainty with the crop. We can manage, to a point, what risks we’re bringing into the farm by focusing on, what for a lot of us is a new area.

Another of the pressures – I think there is some social pressure. And a lot of times, I think, unfortunately, its the social pressure of “you need to be a zero-till-cover-crop-on-100%-of-your-farm person to be soil health person.” And that is a lot of pressure and unrealistic in certain areas. And I think as soon as it became OK for some of us to say, “OK, I can every third year on this field the rotation works where I can get a cover crop in. Or, I can go no-till when I’m not doing digging my beets or digging my potatoes.” And that becomes OK, because we’re still pursuing the same goal of soil health, but we’re not setting this expectation that is so lofty that it drives people away because they think, like your point at the beginning, “Oh, I could never do that, so I’m not going to do any of it.”

Brian Kossman, Paul, Idaho: Yeah, I don’t blame anybody for having some reservations. We can’t go out of business here. The definition of sustainability isn’t “out of business” next year. Socially, I can tell you that the first year I had no-till sugar beets, there were a lot of slow moving pickups. I don’t know maybe it all runs off my back now.

Luke Adams, Rupert Idaho: And I think there is an unfortunate, maybe definition of failure, right? Like, a marginal cover is a huge success compared to no cover. But we have this pressure that when you drive by the road, if it doesn’t look like this huge lush growth, then maybe its not successful. But htose people aren’t jumping out of their pickup, putting a shovel in the ground and saying “Oh look, there’s activity here in November.”

Make sure people understand that IS success. Because we’re going from bare ground to 5-6 inches of growth. And that’s a huge improvement compared to where we were without attempting it.

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


  1. Thank you for sharing the video/text. My experience is that people who are “purists” about things tend to forget that usually they got where they are by taking small steps, understanding incremental change, and–maybe most of all–by resisting social pressure to do this or that as the only possible way to move towards health.

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