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Soil health keeps family farm in business

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At first, Barry Little didn’t realize how much his microbiology degree would benefit him as a farmer.

“In the beginning, I didn’t think it was related at all, when I started farming in 1985,” says Barry, thinking back on the degree he received from South Dakota State University. “In today’s world, it’s pretty obvious that soil health is about the biology that’s under the surface of the soil, which is all about microbes. And that fascinates me, and I want to learn more.”

Barry and son Eli use that desire to continually learn to improve their Blioux River Ranch near Castlewood, S.D. The family operation, which includes Barry’s wife, Carolee, and their other son, Isaac, integrates the five principles of soil health every day:

  1. keep plant residues on soil surface
  2. minimize tillage as much as possible
  3. have diverse crop rotation
  4. keep plants growing year-round to feed…

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