CCSI Newsletter Sp2019 – Unique Event: Fulton-Pulaski Live Grazing Field DAy

A BIG ask for the Fulton County SWCD resulted a VERY well attended and received field day… and a great launch for a new CCSI staff member.

Even Better:  Local partners invited a local lake management board to a mini-workshop before the main event. Fulton County District Conservationist Dan Rosswurm demonstrated how a healthier soil functions – and how that improved soil health can have positive impacts on water quality.

The BEST– A whole team of Indiana Conservation Partners pulled together to put on a unique, informative, and entertaining field day.
Take a look at the fun we had:

How it came to fruition:

  • Jamie Scott, then IASWCD Board President, reached out to CCSI staff to see if a training or another event could be pulled together at a field owned by Fulton County Commissioner Steve Metzger – a great example of warm season cover crops seeded after wheat.
  • Knowing they had hosted a field day featuring live grazing, CCSI Director Lisa Holscher reached out to Lois Mann with the Fulton County SWCD to see if they were interested in putting something similar together – with the full force of CCSI assistance…. in less than 6 weeks!
  • Holscher later met with Fulton and Pulaski County SWCD staff and supervisors, along with NRCS and ISDA, to lay out a plan – that included Chris Gardner, ISDA, grazing his small herd of cattle and turning them into a fresh paddock.
  • This pre-planning allowed then CCSI Northern Program Manager Trisha McClain to jump in with both feet on assisting with a very successful field day.

During the event:

  • Susannah Hinds, NRCS Grazing Specialist; Mark Keppler, Purdue Extension; Jamie Scott, and Steve Metzger led a discussion talking about various cover crop species and planning for grazing/infrastructure needs.
  • After discussion, the cattle were allowed to graze a new section of cover crops while John Scott, Purdue University flew drone footage.
  • Attendees later walked the plots, observing how the cattle selected different species to eat first and how the cover crops were trampled, creating a protective matt to the soil – and that would later break down to feed soil organisms.
  • Other fun features – wood-fired pizza bus for supper… and a goat tractor!

What attendees experienced:

  • 15-way cover crop mix seeded after wheat harvest
  • Multiple paddocks that had been grazed over the month of September in 2 and 4 day rotations
  • Impacts on soil health indicators from cover crops and grazing
  • And the coolest – a live turn-out of beef cattle into a paddock. Watching them select which cover crops to strip and eat first. And cover crops to be up to the cow’s eyeballs!

What attendees learned:

  • How to select and establish cover crop species for grazing
  • How to use cover crops after wheat or silage to extend forages
  • Benefits of cover crops and rotational grazing

CCSI Newsletter Sp2019 – Listening to Farmer Requests: Regional Ag Forum

What:  Regional Ag Forum
When: August 12th, 2019
Pat Bittner often drives over two hours to hear Soil Health experts and gather information to bring back to his farm in Southwest Indiana. Pat saw the need to bring the opportunity closer to home and has been working with CCSI and local conservation partners to make it happen.

Partnerships Bring Progress: 

  • Staff from local SWCDs, NRCS, Purdue Extension, and CCSI came together to plan the first Regional Ag Forum with Pat and Bonnie Bittner.
  • The group has secured Rick Clark (Indiana Farmer and Northeast Region American Soybean Conservation Legacy Award winner), Randy Kron (Indiana Farm Bureau President) and Marin Barbre (USDA Risk Management Agency Administrator) to speak about economics, farm policy, risk reduction, and crop insurance changes – especially those related to cover crops.

How it happened:

  • Pat Bittner had reached out to Stephanie McLain, Indiana NRCS State Soil Health Specialist, about hosting a field day in the southwest part of the state.
  • Working with Chris Lee, Princeton NRCS Tech Team Lead, who knew Pat personally, CCSI staff were able to connect.
  • Following an event that Pat drove 5+ hours to attend, the wheels were turning.
  • CCSI reached out to local SWCDs, NRCS, and Extension staff to help organize the event Bittner envisioned.

Targeted content:

  • Content and speakers were selected to appeal to a target farming audience that is less familiar or interested in no-till and/or cover crops.
  • The program will be bookended by Randy Kron, Indiana Farm Bureau president and Martin Barbre, USDA-Risk Management Agency Administrator (crop insurance) and other RMA officials.
  • Rick Clark and Barry Fisher, USDA-NRCS Soil Health Division, will focus on how soil health systems can increase profitability, reduce risk, and build resiliency to climate change.

Sign up for updates about this event!

CCSI Newsletter Sp2019 – Networking Nationally: Wrangler Jeans Booth at National FFA Convention

Wrangler Jeans Soil Health Booth at 2018 National FFA Convention

Stephanie McLain, the NRCS State Soil Health Specialist, and Joe Rorick, CCSI Conservation Agronomist, worked with a group from the National Soil Health Division of NRCS to show soil health demonstrations at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.

Due to extenuating circumstances, the crew that was to arrive from North Carolina was unable to make it. Under McLain’s leadership, the Indiana team was able to pool resources, assess soil health demonstration samples they had and what more could be collected quickly, and pulled together a table of soil health demonstrations to highlight the importance of protecting and improving our soil resource.

As can be seen in the attached picture, soils and soil health were front and center at the Wrangler booth in keeping with their sustainability program and provided by the Indiana team. By adapting key messaging and having materials on hand they were able to provide interactive and engaging soil health demonstrations to thousands of students and advisers from at least 42 states.

Joe Rorick, CCSI, and Stephanie McLain, USDA-NRCS man the Wrangler Soil Health Booth at the National FFA Convention.

Official contact numbers from Wrangler:

  • A total of 2,366 young folks visited the booth from 10/24-10/26.
  • 58% were female
  • 40% were male
  • 2% were unknown
This event highlights the importance and effectiveness of the Indiana Conservation Partnership and our ability to work together to communicate our message. Multiple requests have been received from FFA Advisers for more information and ways to integrate conservation into their lesson plans.

CCSI Newsletter Sp2019: Resourceful Organization – Phil Needham “Tour”

CCSI not only helps connect local level partners to experts, staff works across the state to locate “non-competing” venues and events, making the most of a speaker’s time and expertise. One example: the January/February Phil Needham Tour.  Three events, three counties, two days.

Needham Expertise:

  • Phil Needham has worked directly with producers, dealers, researchers, chemical companies and wheat agronomists within the U.S. and Canada since 2006 through his business, Needham Ag Technologies, LLC.
  • He is a Master of equipment set-up and modifications.
  • Needham received a No-Till Innovator Award in 2016 and was awarded a slot on the World’s 25 Living No-Till Legends in 2017.

Featured Topics:

  • Residue Management
  • Planter and Drill Setup
  • Key aspects to equipment modifications or setup when practicing soil health practices such as no-till and cover crops.

Multiple Stops, Different Audiences
Rather than bringing Phil in for a one-off event, CCSI organized a series of three very different events over 2 days:

  • Tipton-Howard County SWCDs successful Soil Health Series workshops: a smaller sized learning experience geared towards farmers and others newer to Soil Health practices.
  • An Equipment Set-up for Soil Health Clinic, hosted by Purdue Extension, USDA-NRCS, and the Tipton, Howard, and Clinton County SWCDs
  • A roundtable hosted by Mike Starkey, Hendricks county farmer and SWCD Supervisor. These small roundtables provide a wonderful opportunity to capitalize on speakers with great name recognition – in a format that is made for discussion and questions… as opposed to lecturing.

If you’ve not had the opportunity to see Phil in person, check out some of his videos!

Our Values

  • CCSI is farmer-focused and farmer-driven;
  • CCSI values knowledge based, farmer-proven solutions;
  • CCSI values the strength of grassroots leadership;
  • CCSI values improving soil health – the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans;
  • CCSI values building an additive, synergistic, systems approach to improving soil health;

Our Vision

CCSI envisions an Indiana:

  • With healthy and productive soils;
  • With clean water;
  • With profitable and resilient agriculture;
  • With healthy, diverse ecosystems;
  • Where our communities embrace a conservation ethic;

Building Resiliency to Extreme Weather

Extreme weather events (drought, floods, etc.) pose challenges to crop production by Indiana’s farmers. Dr. Jerry Hatfield, Dan DeSutter and Blake Vince will be discussing challenges of extreme weather and building resilient crops. This three-day event will take place August 8, 9 & 10. Below are flyers and registration links containing specifics regarding each individual session.


August 8 – Indiana State Fair

August 9 – Ivy Tech Culinary and Conference Center

August 10 – Mike Starkey’s Farm

Pest and Crop Newsletter

Are you seeing armyworm moths in your cover crops, especially in cereal rye? You’re not alone! There are reports of high armyworm moth counts throughout Indiana, so scouting will be important this season. For information on armyworms and other pests affecting crops, subscribe to the Pest and Crop Newsletter by contacting or subscribe at the bottom of the newsletter. Click the link below to subscribe to the newsletter.

Pest and Crop Newsletter