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NIU, DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association to host Sept. 16 ‘Evening with Innovators’

August 30, 2021

Gabe Brown, a pioneer in the agricultural soil restoration movement that is successfully and sustainably changing farming methods across the country, will be the keynote speaker in an upcoming “Evening with Innovators,” focusing on innovations in food systems.

The non-profit DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association, Inc. (DAAHA) and NIU’s Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships are hosting the event, which will be held in person and virtually beginning at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16. The in-person portion of the event will be held in NIU’s 71 North Partnership Studio (in the lower level of Founders Memorial Library).

Tickets are $50 for the in-person event, and $30 for the virtual program, with free admission for NIU students. Registration is required (including for students). Contributions are tax deductible and will help support DAAHA’s exhibits and educational programming.  A drawing will be held for a door prize of a regenerative ag course taught by Brown and valued at $500. Brown will also sign copies of his book, “Dirt to Soil,” which will be available for purchase.

Brown has reimagined traditional farming practices, employing holistic and practical no-till cropping systems, which include a variety of cash crops and multi-species cover crops. His practical and innovative techniques mean that soil health can be restored, and that regeneration is possible by using natural resources without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.

The keynote address will be followed by two additional presentations by local experts in the agricultural regeneration field, Dr. Jerry Hatfield and Matt Gehrke.

Hatfield is an agricultural expert with a focus on improving plant efficiency by restoring soil health and environmentally friendly practices. He has spent his career reevaluating traditional farming, employing environmentally friendly practices and scientific strategy as a means of improving crop quality and productivity by restoring soil health. Hatfield will discuss the critical function of soil health and how restoring biological activity within the soil can drive maximized crop productivity. He’ll also answer questions about how quickly regenerative practices can yield quantifiable results, specifically in profitability, water efficiency and overall farm production.

Gehrke is a local cattle farmer and an innovator in practical regenerative soil practices, which he has implemented on his own 34-acre farm in DeKalb. Utilizing an intensive grazing-rotation schedule on his pastures, planted with a varied diet of forage crops, Gehrke’s successful agricultural business model is thriving on farmland free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. During his presentation, Gehrke will discuss how his environmentally friendly methods restored his depleted soil to a healthy, bio-diverse ecosystem that compliments his high-yield cattle business.