The event brought together farmers and experts from across the region

HOPEWELL — About 180 local farmers and soil experts gathered Thursday to share information and learn from speakers and demonstrations. The workshop held at King’s Party House targeted practices to improve soil health and manage nutrients — while reducing runoff and protecting water quality.

Keynote speaker was Steve Groff of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Groff and his family farm 225 acres of cash grain crops, pumpkins and two acres of high tunnel heirloom tomatoes in Lancaster County. For the past 23 years Groff’s Cedar Meadows Farm has conducted thousands of cover-crop research trials. From these he developed the Tillage Radish, a cover crop radish proven to boost crop yields and deliver other soil benefits. Groff talked about growing healthy soils and his strategies for taking cover crops to the next level.

Others offering expertise included those from Cornell University, Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District, American Dairy Association North East, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Paul Salon, a Northeast soil health specialist for NRCS, demonstrated a tabletop rainfall simulator. The device shows the effects of infiltration and runoff as it relates to different types of soil.

Gorham Town Supervisor Fred Lightfoote — a dairy farmer — kicked off the event with opening remarks. He said Monday the workshop provided a lot of useful information.

“As time goes on, as people share their experiences, you find you can learn from those experiences,” Lightfoote said. He talked about the “unlimited variables” involved in farmers finding ideal methods. What works for one farmer may not work for another farmer just a mile down the road, he said. Lightfoote said ongoing research is helping farmers and offering “better opportunities.”

The event was sponsored by the Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District in partnership with the Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association. A break from noon to 1 p.m. included a hearty lunch by King’s Catering and exhibitions. The day ended with a panel answering questions and closing remarks by Al Kraus with the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association.

5 Questions

Five things landowners should ask farmers about soil health:

1 Do you build organic matter in the soil?

2 Do you test the soil at least once every four years?

3 Do you use no-till practices?

4 Do you use cover crops?

5 What can we do together to improve soil health on my land?

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