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News Release

Women Impacting Conservation History on South Dakota Landscape

Contact:  Rachel Giles, Public Affairs Specialist | Phone:  (605) 570-2622

NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE (NRCS), Huron, S.D., March 22, 2021– In South Dakota (SD), women across our state have taken the initiative to implement science-based soil health practices on their operations. They have stepped into leadership roles to improve land management and educate their local communities. Women have innovated, not only through their own practices and implementations, but also as role models for the next generation of conservation leaders. For this Women’s History Month, the NRCS celebrates stories of overcoming hardship, education, perseverance, and success. We recognize the direct lasting impacts women are making to history on the SD landscape.

South Dakota Women, Voices for Soil Health

Cultivating community and building connections by sharing practical knowledge is one of the great attributes of many SD women in conservation. The SD Voices for Soil Health Mentor Network provides easy access for both new and experienced conservationists alike to meet one-on-one and learn. Female mentorship is an important voice in the conservation conversation.

Donna Adrian has been a Master Gardener since 1997 and volunteers her time and expertise to the Keya Wakpala Community Garden on the Rosebud Reservation. The SD NRCS featured her home operation as a 2019 Profile in Soil Health and attributes her success to using soil health methods, mulch, and no-till.
See Donna’s story at

Jeannie Franceus leads by example, practicing rotational grazing on her operation and focusing on restoring native grasses in Wessington Springs, SD. Funding through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) assisted with five new watering facilities to aid her in rotational grazing and conservation. Jeannie explains, “There is a tendency to think it is wasteful not to graze pastures all the way down, but the SD Grassland Coalition and partners taught me that the grass you leave behind is mulch for the soil and results in more grass next year. It really does!” See Jeannie’s story at

Mimi Hillenbrand has been running the 777 Ranch, raising bison for her family for 15 years. Her family began holistic management in the 80’s “It wasn’t just about raising bison and being profitable. It was about taking care of the wildlife, plants, soil, and the people who work here, and the communities nearby. Really the Bison are just part of my team.” See Mimi’s story at

Tracy Rosenberg is a restoration grass farmer on her 1,000-acre native prairie range in Grant County, SD. Tracy works with a permanent grassland easement-land that cannot be utilized for crop production. Tracy explains “Grasslands are not the poor lands; this is an ecosystem that is by far the most important ecosystem we have in North America. And yet it is disappearing at extraordinary rates, equal to the rain forest.”
See Tracy’s story at

These are a few of the many women volunteers amongst the diverse SD Voices for Soil Health Mentor Network, a collaborative project between the SD Soil Health Coalition, SD Conservation Districts, SD Grassland Coalition, and SD NRCS. To learn more about the network or find a mentor, contact to receive a digital or hardcopy of the network directory. Do you practice soil health and are interested in joining the network as a mentor? We need your voice! Send a request to the same e-mail address.