Developing a Strong Economy for Delta County

428 Main St., STE 101, Delta, CO 970-874-4992               

2015 Soil Health Conference Presenters


George Whitten and his wife, Julie Sullivan, manage and operate the San Juan Ranch and Blue Range Ranches near Saguache, Co. Since 1985, George has worked as a ranch consultant. His numerous consulting contracts as a range management and grazing specialist, are based on his holistic approach to rangeland and soil health on irrigated land. He actively works with several farmers and ranchers in Colorado and New Mexico to reintroduce grazing animals to farmland to improve soil biology and overall profitability for both enterprises.

Dr. Jonathan Lundgren is an agroecologist and Lead Research Entomologist at the USDA-ARS laboratory in Brookings, South Dakota. He received his PhD in Entomology from the University of Illinois in 2004. Lundgren’s research program focuses on assessing the ecological risk of pest management strategies and developing sustainable, long-term solutions for managing pests in cropland. His ecological re-search focuses heavily on conserving healthy biological communities within agro-ecosystems by reducing disturbance and increasing biodiversity within cropland.


Kris Nichols has been a Soil Microbiologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) in Mandan, ND, for over seven years she has a Ph.D. in Soil Science from the University of Mary-land. Since 1993, she has studied arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi – a plant-root symbiont. Her most recent work involves the investigation of glomalin – a sub-stance produced by AM fungi. Kris has been examining the impacts of management such as crop rotation, tillage practices, organic production, cover crops, and live-stock grazing on soil aggregation, water relationships, and glomalin.


Karl Kupers is the co-founder of Shepherd's Grain. Shepard's Grain is a group of Columbia Plateau Producers that sustainably grow and market high end wheat. The members of Shepherd's Grain all share the same desire to develop a business that is economically sustainable without depending on federal commodity subsidies, and to minimize soil erosion and degradation by developing cropping systems that address the region's major agro-ecological challenges.

Keith Berns, Green Cover Seed - Keith Berns, along with his brother Brian, combine over 30 years of no-till farming with 10 years of teaching Agriculture and Computers.  In addition to no-tilling 2,500 acres of irrigated and dryland corn, soybeans, rye, triticale, peas and buckwheat in South Central Nebraska, they also own and operate Green Cover Seed, one of the major cover crop seed providers and educators in the United States.  Green Cover Seed has experimented with over 80 different cover crop types and hundreds of mixes planted into various situations and they have learned a lot about cover crop growth, nitrogen fixation, moisture usage, and grazing utilization of cover crops.  Keith also developed the SmartMix CalculatorTM one of the most widely used cover crop selection tools on the internet. 

Lunchtime speakers include:

Dr. Perry Cabot is an Extension Specialist and Faculty Affiliate of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado State University and will address his latest water research. He received his Ph.D. in Agricultural Engineering and Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, his M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois, and his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University. He has authored several academic papers on subjects related to agricultural practices and their environmental impacts. He is also licensed professional engineer, and a member of Chi Epsilon and Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Societies. He has conducted international work pertaining to water supply and purification project in Rwanda through Engineers Without Borders. Dr. Cabot is also a Fulbright Scholar (2009) in collaboration with the University of Zambia on research related to soil sustainability, irrigation practices, and bioenergy cropping.


Brendon Rockey, Rockey Farms, is a third generation potato farmer from Center, Colorado. He, along with his brother, raises 250 acres of specialty potatoes for both certified seed sales and for the fresh market. Rockey Farms has always been known for their innovation and leadership. They were the first certified seed producers in Colorado to build their own tissue culture lab and greenhouse for mini-tuber production, and they were the first to grow fingerling potatoes in the U.S. They continue to redefine how potatoes can be raised, by focusing on soil health. They currently rotate their potato crop with a multi-species green manure crop, and they have implemented companion cropping in their potatoes this year. By focusing on the soil health, they have been able to maintain yield, drastically improve the quality of the crop, and they have done it all while decreasing the inputs that are required to grow the crop. They no longer use any commercial fertilizer, and they have eliminated their dependency on toxic chemicals. Their farm has become a regular stop for soil health tours, as they believe strongly in sharing the knowledge they have gained.

Local Presenters

Robbie LaValley is partner in LeValley Ranch and Delta County Administrator

Lance and Anna Hanson with Jack Rabbit Hill Winery and Peak Spirits Farm Distillery in Hotchkiss, CO

Liz With is a Gunnison Field Office’s Rangeland Management Specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Frank Stonaker is with Osito Organic Orchardsin Hotchkiss, CO and formerly with CSU in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture

Joel Price

Bob Hammon with CSU as Area Extension Agent - Agronomy and Entomology

Steve Woodis is with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Montrose, CO

Verlin Rockey is with Rockey Farms in Alamosa, CO (and a rocket scientist)

Chuck Peakcock is a Soil Scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Grand Junction, CO

Dave Dearstyne is a retired Soil Scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Bob Lane with Day Spring Farms in Olathe, CO