Cultivating Resilience Field Day

*Register by clicking here*

Registration will close on August 12th. Day-of registration will be avaialble but lunch and/or dietary needs for lunch will not be gauranteed. 

The Ottawa & Allegan Conservation Districts, in partnership with the Outdoor Discovery Center, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, and the National Grazing Land Coalition are hosting “Cultivating Resilience,” a farm field day, on August 18th at Shady Side Farm, 13275 Blair St, Holland,  MI 49424 from 8:00 AM – 2:45 PM.

The Cultivating Resilience field day will showcase tried and true practices that promote soil health and water conservation, and give producers practical conservation knowledge that they can use to evaluate their operations to create a more resilient farm. This year’s theme will be focused on the groundwater issue in Ottawa and surrounding counties and this issue’s impact on local agriculture. 

We are delighted to host John Yellich, Director of Michigan Geological Survey at Western Michigan University who will speak on the groundwater issue as a keynote session. A Q&A Panel Discussion will focus on the protection and funding of water quality projects in county drains and will include perspectives from Joe Bush (Water Resources Commissioner), Matt Meersman (Director of the St. Joseph River Basin Commission), Matt Hehl (OCD Board Chairman & Ottawa County Farmer), and Alex Svoboda (OCD RCPP Project Manager).

Onsite demonstrations will include a morning farm walk showcasing the benefits of practices such as composting, no-till, and rotational grazing. The farm walk will feature three speakers, including our farm host, Mike Bronkema, Charles Gould (MSU Extension Bioenergy Educator), and Jerry Miller (Certified Soil Scientist & MACD President). Additionally Christina Curell (MSU Extension Soil Health and Cover Crop Educator) will demonstrate a rainfall simulator to discuss the effects of weather on soil health management. Matt Raven, a Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at MSU will close the event with a presentation on Holistic Management of the Farm.

As agriculture in West Michigan faces continued challenges – from extreme rainfall to groundwater shortages – cultivating resilience in our agricultural community is essential. Register today using the link above. This event is FREE and includes a free lunch and the chance to win some awesome door prizes! Everyone will automatically be entered to win for attending the event, but additional tickets can be earned by visiting our on-site vendor tables! This is also a MAEAP Phase 1 Educational Event and participants are eligible to earn RUP credits.

2022 Field Day Agenda

8:00 am Registration & Light Breakfast
Sponsored by Greenstone Farm Credit Services

8:30 am Welcome & Introductions

9:00 am Keynote Presentation: What is needed to have a future with water in Ottawa County?
John Yellich, CPG, Director, Michigan Geological Survey

9:45 am Networking Break – Visit with vendor booths to earn additional tickets for door prizes!

10:15 am Farm Tour with Guest Speakers (30 mins each)                                                                                  Compost Utilization in a Cropping System (Composting Demonstration)
Charles Gould, MSU Extension Bioenergy Educator
Soil Health – Physical, Chemical and Biological Components (Soil Pit Demonstration)
Gerald “Jerry” Miller, Ph.D., Certified Professional Soil Scientist, President MACD
Footprints in the Field – Observations on Managed Grazing and its Effects on Soil and Water Quality (Pasture Walk)
Mike Bronkema, Shady Side Farm Owner and Operator
Weather Impacts on Soil Health Management (Rainfall Simulator Demonstration)
Christina Curell, MSU Extension Soil Health and Cover Crop Educator

12:30 pm Enjoy a free, boxed lunch catered by Wolfies of Zeeland
Sponsored by Endeavor Ag & Energy

1:30 pm Panel: Protecting and Funding Water Quality in County Drains
Joe Bush, Ottawa County Water Resources Commissioner
Matt Meersman, Director of the St. Joseph River Basin Commission
Matt Hehl, OCD Board Chairman and Local Farmer
Alex Svoboda, OCD RCPP Project Coordinator

2:15 pm Closing Keynote: Intro to Holistic Farm Management – What’s Next?
Matt R. Raven, MSU Professor of Community Sustainability

2:45 pm Closing – Stick around for our Vendor Door Prizes!
Obtain your 3 RUP Credits and MAEAP Phase 1 Educational Credit

Speaker Biographies

John Yellich – John A. Yellich was appointed the Director of the Michigan Geological Survey (MGS) effective October 2, 2013.  Mr. John A. Yellich obtained his Bachelors and Masters degrees in geology from Western Michigan University and for over 30 years, has been a Certified Professional Geologist (American Institute Professional Geologists) and member of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) for 25 + years.  Mr. Yellich brings more than 50 years of geologic experience in mineral exploration, mineral development, environmental consulting, business operations, stormwater, land development and OSHA safety compliance to MGS.  He has worked in more than 30 States and has also conducted mineral assessments in Canada, Australia and China.  Mr. Yellich is currently coordinating and conducting geologic research and surficial geologic mapping in priority areas of Michigan utilizing available Federal matching funds as the primary resource.  MGS is developing geologic programs and research to support the identification and protection of Michigan’s natural resources, including water resources in priority areas of Michigan identified by EGLE WRD, EGLE MPART and regional counties and communities to present the case for annual funding for the MGS.  These multiple programs utilize basic and new data and techniques to expedite and present unbiased validated geologic data in useable formats for all to use. The State of Michigan currently does not have annual funding to support the geological needs of Michigan to be conducted by the MGS.

2020-21, President of the Association of American State Geologists (AASG). 

Secretary of the Michigan Basin Geological Society 2017-2021

Charles Gould- Charles Gould has spent the majority of his Extension career working with farmers to maximize the value of manure in their farming operations. His expertise in manure management and utilization ranges from manure application to manure-based compost production to energy generation from manure to products made from manure. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, bulletins, and web-based curriculum. Charles received his bachelor’s degree from Utah State University and his master’s degree from The University of Georgia. He has been with Michigan State University Extension since 1995. 

Jerry Miller- Gerald “Jerry” Miller, Ph.D., CPSS (Certified Professional Soil Scientist) and President, MACD, has served as an elected director on the Kent Conservation District Board since 2014. He currently serves as the board chair. In 2015 he was elected as Vice-President, Michigan Association of Conservation Districts and was re-elected for a second two-year term in 2017. He was elected President, MACD, in 2019 and re-elected for a second term in 2021.

He retired from Iowa State University in 2011 where he served as a Professor of Agronomy from 1974 until his retirement. In 1998 he was selected as an associate dean and he served 13 years in college and university administration. During his academic career he conducted applied research in soil and water conservation, watershed management and soil productivity and interpretation. He is a member of several professional societies including the American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America and the Soil and Water Conservation Society. He is the current Vice-President, Michigan Chapter, Soil and Water Conservation Society.
Jerry was raised on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley, VA and earned his B.S. degree from Virginia Tech followed by an M.S. and Ph.D. at Iowa State University. He served 32 months on active duty as a commissioned officer, U.S. Army. Following 33 years’ total service he retired from the U.S. Army and Army National Guard in 1998 with the rank of Major General. He is a member of Rotary International. He resides in Cascade Township, Kent County.

Mike Bronkema- Mike is a first-generation farmer, and has been farming with his family for 30 years. Shady Side Farm started out as a poultry, corn and soybean farm. Always interested in learning, Mike’s goals shifted to providing food for people while also implementing practices that reduce his inputs and build soil health. Now Shady Side Farm raises grass-fed meats, and grows grain and bean crops for direct sale to consumers. 

Christina Curell- Christina is the statewide Soil Health and Cover Crop Educator for the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute. She works with all agricultural commodities as well as consumer horticulture. She has been with Michigan State University since 1996. Her responsibilities have been centered on water quality and soil education for farms; helping farmers, state, and federal agencies, and agribusiness to mitigate and reduce risks to the environment while ensuring farm profitability.  Christina is currently housed out of the Lake County office in Baldwin.

Matt Meersman- Matt Meersman developed a strong connection to the water growing up near the St. Joseph River and spending summer weekends at his family’s lake cottage in southern Michigan. He now lives along the river in downtown South Bend, IN and works as the Director of the St. Joseph River Basin Commission. He also serves as the President of the Friends of the St. Joe River Association. His passion for protecting the water comes from a love of being on and in it. When he is not working on watershed projects, you will likely find him paddling canoes and kayaks on lakes and rivers in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana.

Matt Hehl- Matthew Hehl is a fourth-generation, lifelong farmer, raising turkey, chicken, beef cattle, and pigs. He also serves as a board member of the Coopersville Community Foundation, the Coopersville Sportsman Club and serves as the Chairman of the Ottawa Conservation District Board. He previously served as a member of the Ottawa County Farm Bureau Board, MI Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Board, Polkton Township Planning Commission, Polkton Township Board Trustee, and the Ottawa County Farmland Preservation Board and served as a 4H Leader and Ottawa County Commissioner. He implements regenerative farming practices such as no till, rotational grazing, and cover crops on his land and believes conservation is of utmost importance in his everyday life.

Alex Svoboda- Alex Svoboda is the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Project Manager for the Ottawa Conservation District. Prior to this position, Alex worked as the MAEAP Technician for the Osceola-Lake Conservation District. In these roles, Alex has worked extensively with farmers and landowners throughout west-central Michigan to address environmental concerns and improve sustainability.
Alex grew up in Wasilla, Alaska. His passion for conservation and protecting the natural world led him to Northern Michigan University where he graduated with a B.S. in environmental science in 2018. In his spare time, Alex enjoys hiking, fishing, hunting and playing hockey.

Matt Raven- Matt R. Raven is a Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. Dr. Raven received his B.S. in Plant Science (Agronomy and Range Science) as well as his Ag Specialist and Life Science Single Subject teaching credentials from University of California at Davis, his Masters in Agricultural Education from Kansas State University and his Ph.D. in Agricultural Education from The Ohio State University. Prior to Michigan State University he served on the faculty at Montana State University and Mississippi State University. At Michigan State he teaches courses in sustainability. His research interests include teaching and learning in higher education, diffusion and adoption of innovations in agriculture and community food systems, and the connection between healthy soils, healthy food, healthy people, and healthy communities with an emphasis on the utilization of grazing livestock to improve our soils. Dr. Raven is a faculty coordinator of the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center (UPREC) located in Chatham, Michigan with responsibilities in community food systems. He is a certified Field Professional as well as Ecological Outcomes Verification (EOV) Master Verifier by the Savory Institute.

The photos on this page are from 2021 and were taken by Raecale Stull of BDE Photography.

Sponsor Payment

If you are a sponsor that we have already spoken to, you may pay online by clicking below. It will take you to our secure Shopify store, and you can choose your sponsorship level from the drop-down menu.

If you would like to be a sponsor of this event, please contact Lexie Kasper at!