SHARON, N.D. - During a field tour at the Johnson's Stock Farm, Lindsey Johnson led the group to a patch of leafy spurge in a pasture and explained how the noxious weed is a detriment to pastures and the cows that graze them. To battle the troublesome weed, they have introduced flea beetles as a way to biologically control leafy spurge in their pastures. The flea beetle can help control leafy spurge over time.

To illustrate how the insects go to work on the weed patches, Steele County Extension Agent Angie Johnson brought a container of flea beetles that the Johnsons had ordered, then released them into the patch of leafy spurge. According to NDSU Extension, flea beetles take several years to become established and then require several more years to reduce a leafy spurge stand.

Lindsey Johnson talks about why cover crops are used on the Johnson's Stock Farm.
Lindsey Johnson talks about why cover crops are used on the Johnson's Stock Farm.
Leafy spurge and flea beetles were just two of the things covered at the Women Caring for the Land event Aug. 8 at Lake Tobiason, near Hatton, N.D. Women with many different connections to agriculture gathered for the event that included hands-on learning and conversation regarding agriculture. This program is a way to connecting women to each other and to give them resources that can assist and empower them to reach the goals they have on the farm.

"Events like these are important to network and engage with women in all areas of agriculture who have shared backgrounds, interests and professional goals," says Linsey Bauer, executive director of the Steele County Farm Service Agency. "I also find it to be a great opportunity to meet other women in the area as well as resource professionals that can be of assistance when making decisions about your land."

After lunch, everyone hopped on a school bus for a tour of the Johnson Stock Farm of rural Sharon. Lindsey and Jeremy Johnson are co-owners in the family-run, 600 head cow-calf operation. The fifth generation farm also grows corn, soybeans, wheat and dry edible beans.

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For the past few years, the Johnsons have found that their soil health and livestock have both benefited from instilling several conservation practices. They work with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and NDSU Extension to put these practices to work in their crops and on their pastures.

Lindsey Johnson walked the group through their reasons for planting cover crops.

"The reason for planting cover crops is different for everyone based on their end-goals," Johnson said. "For us, it's a way to extend our grazing season."

The Johnsons use barley, turnip and radishes in their cover crop rotation. For them it's a way to create another feed source and to keep their cattle grazing longer.

Women with many different connections to agriculture gathered for Women Caring for the Land event.
Women with many different connections to agriculture gathered for Women Caring for the Land event.
The program began with a morning of learning and conversation led by Cayla Bendel of Pheasants Forever. A roundtable made entirely up of women encouraged open, candid discussion about many ag-related topics including the importance of rural living and how it applies to conservation. During the discussion, the women talked about their roles in agriculture and how they ended up on the farm. Several of the participants said that growing up they didn't want to marry a farmer, but all admitted that looking back, it was the best decision they ever made.

Bobbie Ostrom of the Steele County NRCS and Nancy Kainz of the Steele County Soil Conservation District talked about soil properties, and Angie Johnson presented on best practices for being an effective land owner and making well-informed and fair decisions on setting land rent. Location of land and its property index are two things to look at during this process. Johnson also offered tips on how to have a conversation about rent with a farmer who rents their land and how to keep a strong relationship with a renter.

Bauer talked about farm programs for farmers and ranchers, and Deb Schlief of the Traill County FSA office described different farm loans that are available. She also told the group about a new website for the USDA - farmers.gov - that is more user and mobile friendly for farmers.

"The thing I took away the most is that there are a lot of resources for women," said Pam Ressler of Cooperstown, N.D. "You just have to ask and have a connecting point and today we were fortunate enough to have four or five connecting points who could direct us to more information if needed."