Farm Babe: No-Till November raises awareness on soil health


No-Shave November has been a popular way to raise awareness on men’s health for over a decade. Over the years, however, it has morphed into a much larger movement to help both men and women beat cancer and donate to the fight against it. The premise is to ditch your razor; instead donate the money you’d normally spend in shaving and grooming to cancer programs that help save lives. People who undergo treatment lose their hair, so by growing out your beards, mustaches, leg hairs, etc., you’re starting a conversation that leads to cancer prevention, research, and education. Check out the website here and the popular hashtags like #letitgrow #noshavenovember etc.

The popular trend has raised over $2 million for cancer, but nowadays there another program related not only to human health but also to farmers and soil health: No-till November.

No-till farming is the practice of avoiding tillage to improve soil health. While it can’t be an option for every farmer in every region, the farmers who can adopt it see huge benefits in nutrient retention, water infiltration, reduction in erosion, and improved aggregate stability and organic matter — and the list goes on. Soil is like the skin of the farm: It’s a nourishing barrier for what grows above and beneath. But whereas a shaving razor stops at the surface of the skin, tillage rips into the soil and can potentially inflict harm.

When you have healthy soil and healthy roots, you have healthy plants. When you have healthy plants you have healthy people. The better a farmer treats the soil, the better it treats them, and as with life in general, you get out what you put in. What could complement improved yields, less inputs, less erosion, and better utilization of nutrients? More money in your pocket. Check out this link to learn more with what has happened in our area.

The idea came about by Iowa-based USDA agronomist Neil Sass (who happens to be my boyfriend’s brother!) on how to make the “health awareness” connection. He pitched it to our state conservationist in 2017, and it’s stuck ever since. Now, farmers are encouraged to #keepthestubble and connect with their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office to become more versed in how farmers can improve their farms through no-till.

As Sass explains, “We had to till for a while, just to grow crops. We didn’t have equipment and tools for weed control or preparation of the seed bed.” But steady advances in technology since the 1970s — both in farming equipment and crop genetics — mean that tillage is no longer necessary for many farmers.

The program has been fun and successful, with farmers, agronomists, soil labs, etc., getting in on the #notillnovember action:

The #keepthestubble beards shown above are available at the NRCS offices, and people are encouraged to follow along with the November hashtags #dontfarmnaked #keepitcovered #notillnovember and more to be more involved.

(No) till next time,
Happy Harvest!


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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