Prairie & Grasslands Conservation

EcoSun Prairie photo of grassPROFITABLE PRAIRIE RESTORATION: The EcoSun Farm Experiment

Ongoing conversation of grassland to croplands in the Northern Great Plains, declining wildlife populations,and worsening soil and water ¬†prompted a South Dakota Group to search for agricultural practices that would balance environmental concerns with farm economics. Thus was born the EcoSun Prairie Farm (http://www.ecosunprairiefarms.org), an experimental working farm based on the land ethic and philosophy of Aldo Leopold. EcoSun’s primary objective was to see if converting cropland to native tallgrass prairie would simultaneously improve the environment – especially soil and water quality; prairie wetlands; and biodiversity, including wildlife – and provide sufficient income to support a farm family through the sale of grassland products. Six years later, EcoSun continues to sell native plant seed, hay, and beef, and to share lessons learned. As the restoration has progressed, many amphibians, game birds, and neotropical migrant birds have already returned to the farm, but an important measure of the farm’s long term success will be the number of producers that adapt the farming approach advocated and demonstrated by¬†EcoSun.