Why South Dakota is doing sustainable agriculture right
Dakota Lakes Research Farm
Agriculture is a whopping $21.4 billion industry in the Mount Rushmore State. But Big Ag practices can have enormously detrimental results: chemicals in the groundwater, depletion of soil health, less nutritious crops. As manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, Beck has been helping South Dakota farmers test land-friendly methods for over 30 years.
Why we chose this farming project:
The Dakota Lakes Research Farm is a farmers’ cooperative where members can experiment with soil-nurturing, resource-efficient agricultural methods — and, ideally, bring those methods back to their own farms. The operation has been pesticide-free for 13 years; instead of spraying chemicals, Beck and his colleagues use a complex system of crop diversity. Beck also hopes to make the farm fossil fuel-neutral by 2026. Part of his plan includes cold-pressing oil from oilseeds to offset the gas used to run tractors.
Farmers are the real agri-innovators:
“Scientists have this really narrow specialization,” says Beck. “On the farm, we have this very broad systems approach to things, looking at all aspects — not only profitability, but also the long-term sustainability. And we’ve had some really innovative farmers [here].”