North Dakota farmer Paul Overby sees 'a lot of interest' in regenerative farming

Overby farms near Wolford, North Dakota, and he's been using regenerative farming techniques for about 15 years.

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Paul Overby thinks more farmers are ready to embrace regenerative techniques.

"Yeah, it's easier now," he said. "There's a lot of interest in the space there wasn't 15, 20 years ago. And so I think for farmers, between the equipment and the education, they have the tools now. Now it's maybe a change in mindset."

Overby farms near Wolford, North Dakota, with his wife Diane, and they've been using regenerative farming techniques for about 15 years.

Thousands of flaxseed "bolls" in a swathe are in the foreground as the farmer, standing at right, prepares to combine.
Paul Overby of Lee Farm, near Wolford, North Dakota, said the stems of the flax crop he was growing for a new Archer Daniels Midland crop were still green, but the tops were ready to harvest on Sept. 30, 2022.
Mikkel Pates / Agweek file photo

"It started with no tilling and nutrient management, and then we added cover crops into that along with a diverse array of different crops on 150 acres. We'll be planting eight different crops this year ," he said. "And all of that helps to build soil health and increase the carbon in the soil."

Overby attended the Evolution Ag Summit in Jamestown on Feb. 21. The inaugural event featured information on all things carbon — including how farmers can benefit from efforts to reduce their carbon footprints. That included things like carbon offset markets or improved markets for products but also the fact that some regenerative techniques can improve the soil or reduce input costs.


"My goal is to get our soil organic matter and our farm back into the 6-7-8% range that it would have been when it was native prairie. The thing that maybe people don't understand is soil organic matter is 50% soil organic carbon. So as you build soil organic matter in the soils, restoring it back to the to the prairie state as best as possible, you're actually building carbon in the soil, too."

Making the decision about changing how a person farms is the hardest part, Overby said.

"I think once you decide you're going to do this, then everything else will flow," he said. "But it really is the the concept of I'm going to change from doing things this way to doing things this way. And that's that's a challenge."

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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