Keynote Speaker Bios

Vetch and radishes. Photo by Victoria Ackroyd.

The 2018 Northeast Cover Crops Council meeting will feature keynote speakers Mr. Blake Vince (Ontario farmer) and Dr. Ray Weil (University of Maryland professor).


Blake is a fifth generation farmer and Canadian Nuffield Scholar from Merlin, Ontario, Canada.  Working with his father, Elwin Vince, they currently produce commercial corn, soybeans, and winter wheat on 1200 acres (485 ha). Their management practices are centered on soil health and they are considered to be no-till pioneers in their corner of Canada where they adapted to no-till farming techniques in the early 1980s. Blake considers himself very fortunate to have been taught, from a young age, the merits of no-till farming.  His claim to fame, as a 46 year old farmer, is that he has never used a moldboard plow. Knowing that soil is not an infinite resource and working with the objective to leave his farms in better condition for future generations, Blake has been using a multi-species cover crop blend to protect and enrich them.  His practices are in stark contrast with others in his area of Southwestern Ontario where more and more farmers are reverting back to conventional tillage.


Ray Weil has been studying, researching and teaching an ecological approach to soil science for over 40 years and planted his first cover crops in 1973 – cereal rye and Austrian winter peas – as a farm manager in North Carolina. Ray started working on soil health and organic matter issues at the University of Maryland in the early-1990s and led to his lab’s development of the widely used permanganate oxidizable carbon test (POXC or actve C).  In 1995 he also took over as author of The Nature and Properties of Soils, now in its 15th edition and which is often referred to as the “bible” of soil science. Ray has always valued working with farmers of all stripes, from subsistence smallholders in Africa to large scale innovators in North America. Steve Groff of Pennsylvania was one of the first farmers Ray collaborated with when he began working with brassica cover crops in the year 2000, and his research combined with Steve’s entrepreneurship and insights lead to the radish becoming one of the most widely used cover crops in North America.  Ray’s current research is focused on extending and optimizing cover cropping by planting deep rooting species as early as possible and letting them grow as late as possible, including planting green. The aim is to add nutrients to the bottom line instead of to our rivers, lakes and estuaries and to enhance organic matter, diversity and structure in farm soils.  Ray believes the right cover cropping systems can pay for themselves in the short term and improve farming sustainability and profitability in the long term. He is thrilled to be able to play a small part in the cover crop revolution that is changing the face of American agriculture for the better.