University of Minnesota launches new app to connect farmers

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A new digital platform, developed by the University of Minnesota Extension, brings together farmers from across the state. The app is called Farm Map and is designed as a resource for farmers who may be looking for advice and guidance on adopting new techniques and practices.

The farms listed on the app have participated in different case studies regarding soil health, snow fencing or silvopasture. Farmers can locate nearby farms, read these case studies, and even connect with other farmers to find out what worked and what didn’t.

“We have farmers who have learned a lot in this process, you know they are trying different things. They are innovators and they make things work. I think the research really helps, but then the farmers themselves bring changes and improves the system, and that’s part of the reason that farmer-to-farmer conversations are important,” says Dean Current, director of the University’s Center for Integrated Natural Resource and Agricultural Management.

Current says this idea was started years ago, with the goal of mainstreaming soil health practices. He says that since its inception they have expanded beyond just soil health practices, but now more and more farmers are working with MnDOT and installing soil fencing on their land.

“When you talk to farmers about it, there’s often a lot of resistance. They can think of many reasons why they don’t want to do it, but the idea with the app is that ‘they could talk to another farmer, they could explain what they needed to do, if they had any problems,’ explains Current.

One of the first farmers to participate in a case study was Jerry Ackermann of Ackermann Farms in Jackson County. In the early 2000s, Jerry started new soil health techniques that allowed him to get some of his best crops. His case study reached dozens of farmers across the state who contacted him to learn more about his farm.

“It’s a learning curve for a lot of people to make changes, and sometimes you have to change equipment. But you visit other farmers, ‘what have you done, how have you changed’ and get some perspective,” says Ackermann. “So I was guilty of the same thing. I didn’t want to change, but talking to other farmers I found the courage to try and we had some of the best years we’ve had.”

The developers hope that this app will continue to grow not only statewide, but hopefully one day internationally.

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