A love of analyzing data paired with a passion for sustainability is what Cristin Weber says drew her to a new career as a Precision Ag and Conservation Specialist (PACS) for Pheasants Forever.
The first and only position of its kind in South Dakota, she is paving the way as the first PACS in the state, charged with helping farmers and ranchers maximize profit by removing marginal acres using precision data they’ve collected.
“I enjoy digging deep into the data and finding out why an area isn’t producing, working with a farmer and helping maximize profitability,” Weber said. “On the other side of the token, I love hunting and being outdoors. I have a passion for sustainability and want to make sure that in the future my kids can come back and enjoy the uplands like we do now.”
With five years experience working in precision ag around the Jerauld County area, Weber said she looks forward to expanding her territory across the state of South Dakota. While there are Pheasants Forever PACS in neighboring states such as North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa, Weber’s position marks the first in South Dakota.
Weber’s initial step when meeting with a producer is to first, understand their goals. They then analyze the pieces of the property that aren’t producing as well as desired then connect harvest data with Cristin’s Pheasants Forever API software.
“We find the areas that are consistently low yielding, then apply the farmer’s budgets and production costs like equipment, seed, fertilizer and living costs,” Weber explained. “After reviewing everything, I work with farm bill biologist to check out CRP options and FSA/NRCS programs. If something besides habitat would better fit their needs, we continue to look at what would best help the farmer’s profitability.”
Whether it’s building habitat, increasing soil health or removing saline acres, Weber has analyzed seven million acres since starting the job in August 2020.
Intent on “turning red acres green,” Weber recognizes that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. “It’s not always about putting in a perennial mix. If cover crops work better or a change in management practices will help ROI, the bottom line is that we are here to help increase profitability.”