Barry grew up on the family farm, and after receiving a degree in Agricultural Business and Economics, worked in the commodity futures industry before returning to the family farm in 1992. He farmed and managed a family owned commercial grain elevator until 2013 when he sold the elevator and now farms full time. He is currently secretary and treasurer of the National Cotton Council, and on the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board. Barry is the past president of Plains Cotton Growers, a past board member of the Cotton Board, past director of Cotton Incorporated, and Participant in the Texas Agriculture Lifetime Leadership Program.
Dr. Van Gestel is an assistant professor in Biology at Texas Tech. Her research centers on how ecosystems function in the face of climate extremes. In particular she studies how soils manage carbon. She has worked in natural ecosystems, including Antarctica, and in agricultural ecosystems. She uses what she learns in natural ecosystems to understand how the same processes operate in managed ecosystems. She thus provides for a fresh perspective on how agricultural soils could build carbon and improve soil structure to better manage water use. She is leading a grower citizen science project to help growers in west Texas build healthier soils to be better prepared for climate extremes.
Jim Johnson serves as a soils and crops consultant in the producer relations program. He joined the consultation program in 2000 after working in the agricultural research group in 1999.
Johnson assists regional agricultural producers with soil fertility testing, recommendations and management; pesticide recommendations; integrated pest management; sprayer and planter calibration; variety selection; and agronomic best management practices. His further areas of interest are no-till, cover crops and soil health. He works daily with farmers and ranchers in the Southern Great Plains to improve their operations.
Johnson has more than 20 years of experience in plant and soil sciences. Complementing his current work at the Noble Research Institute, he has worked across the Great Plains and the Midwest.
Johnson, his wife and children also run a small cow-calf operation is south-central Oklahoma.
Kelly Kettner was raised on a peanut farm and ranch in Mason County, Texas. After graduating from Texas Tech with a degree in agronomy, he moved back to Mason to farm with his father. However he came to love the South Plains of Texas during his time at Tech. In 2001, after the government programs for peanuts changed, he moved to Parmer County, Texas to start a farm operation there. It was after numerous days of fighting sand in cotton that he decided to switch to no-till with residue. Kelly is married to Deborah Kettner, and they have three kids: Jacob, Riley, and Kyle.
Dr. John Zak is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Texas Tech University and Director of the TTU-Climate Science Center. John’s lab focuses on understanding the roles of the soil microbial community (bacteria and fungi) in natural and agricultural soils and how disturbances and climate variability determines the capacity of the soil microbial community to carryout important process of decomposition, soil carbon formation and nitrogen availability. These studies are part of a larger effort to understand how soil health of agricultural systems can be effectively managed and how the soil microbiome contributes to sustainable cotton production across the Southern High Plains and across the cotton belt.
Kris is a fourth generation operator of Verett Farms in Ralls, TX, where cotton and multi-species covers comprise the majority of the operation.
Kris grew up working on the farm and grew to love all things farming. He continued his passion by completing a degree in agronomy and entomology at Texas A&M, followed by a masters in agronomy at Texas Tech.
Upon completing school, Kris knew he wanted to return to the farm to employ his knowledge.
After attending R.N. and Ronnie Hopper’s no-till meeting in 2013, Kris became interested in implementing the system into his operation. Today nearly every acre follows a rotation of cotton followed by multi-species covers. Kris looks forward to continuing to better utilize our resources and leave the farm better than he found it for his two boys, Charley and Luke.
Ronald and Suzanne Meyer live with their daughter Mary near Dalhart, Texas on the family farm. He has been farming for 28 years. The main cash crops he works with are sunflowers, milo, corn, and just starting to work with cotton. In the late 90’s he began working with no-till farming and committed fully in 2006. The past few years he has begun implementing cover crops such as radishes, rye, barley, oats, turnips, and rape into his rotations. He is working on complete soil heath which he realizes will take time. He believes that no-till farming is just the beginning of achieving the healthy soil and better crops.
Willie earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Entomology and a Master of Agriculture Degree in Agricultural Chemistry from Texas A & M University. After college, Willie continued his agriculture career as a Field Sales Representative for Helena Chemical Company and Terra International, Inc. in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, becoming a Certified Crop Adviser in 1992. In 1995, Willie began work as Regional Agronomist for Novartis Seeds (Syngenta) in the States of Texas, Oklahoma and the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. Willie has been working with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 18 years, first joining in 2002 as a Conservation Agronomist, 2006 as Resource Team Leader and 2008 as State Conservation Agronomist. Currently, Willie works as the USDA NRCS Soil Health Division’s Regional Soil Health Specialist, providing training, guidance, and technical resources to USDA-NRCS employees, customers and partners, to improve the health and function of our nation’s living and life-giving soil.
R. N. is a continuous no-till farmer from Petersburg, TX. He and his wife, Lyndi, live on the farm with their three children and grow corn, cotton, and wheat. R. N. is one of the founders and current President of No-Till Texas. His no-till cropping systems have also been the subject of a long term research project funded by Cotton, Inc. and overseen by the Department of Biological Sciences at Texas Tech University to quantify the effects of no-till and crop rotation on soil microbial populations, carbon levels, water infiltration, fertility, and general soil health.
Dr. Steffens has a joint appointment with the Agriculture Sciences Department at West Texas A&M and with Texas AgriLife Extension in the field of rangeland resource management. His experience also includes working directly with producers on rangeland issues including grazing management, prescribed fire, livestock nutrition and Threatened &Endangered species as a Rangeland Management Specialist with the USDA-NRCS in southeastern Colorado. Previously, he was a rangeland management specialist with Colorado Cooperative Extension and instructor with the Colorado State University Western Center for Integrated Resource Management. He has also managed a 1300 cow ranch for the Mescalero Apaches in the mountains of southern New Mexico. He also worked as the extension project manager for the nationally recognized Seco Creek Water Quality Demonstration Project. His current research and extension interests include managing ecological succession using targeted grazing management, developing integrated livestock-rangeland-cropping systems to improve soil quality and improve conservation as well as brush and weed management.
John Reznik grew up on his family’s farm in Moore county. He received a degree in Agronomy from Texas Tech University and then came back home to farm with his dad. They currently grow cotton, corn, sorghum, and wheat. While trying to come up with ways to conserve water, John became interested in no-till and other conservation practices. He enjoys learning and trying new things on the farm. John is married to Julie Reznik, and they have three kids: June, Jase, and Jake.
Patrick Middlebrook is a 5th generation farmer in Shallowater, Texas. He graduated from Texas Tech with his B.S. in Plant and Soil Science. He grew up working on the farm and has always known he wanted to farm. He became passionate in researching how to sustain health of the land after graduation. In 2016, he traveled to Australia to further study their farming tactics in soil health. After attending multiple soil health seminars, meeting with several like minded farmers, and hours of research he began to implement soil health on his own farm such as cover crops, no till, analyzing fertilizer ingredients, and controlling farm traffic. Patrick continues to research soil health and hopes to increase awareness to the importance of soil health for the future.