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Stewardship has its rewards | CSP Success Story

Stewardship has its rewards: McClelland Farm among Kansas's First CSP Contract Holders

Debra and Chris McClelland with kids Kenny and AshleyChris and Debra McClelland signed Kansas' first Tier III Conservation Security Program (CSP) contract for 2005 during a ceremony at their Jefferson County farm in July. The McClellands, who farm about 650 acres of com, soybeans and wheat, also have 90 cow-calf pairs.

The Kansas NRCS office chose the McClellands' farm for the signing ceremony due to their outstanding conservation practices on cropland and rangeland. They farm in the Delaware River Valley Watershed, one of nine CSP-eligible watersheds in Kansas.

"In many respects, this is a family celebration for the McClellands," says Merlin Bartz, who was on hand for the signing, is central region assistant to the NRCS Chief Bruce Knight. "Debra and Chris are leading the way in Kansas. Through their efforts, the next generation is promised clean air, clean water, and abundant fish and wildlife."

With assistance from the NRCS Oskaloosa Field Office and the Jefferson County Conservation District, Chris has built terraces and grass waterways on all his cropland, installing underground drainage basins where necessary. He also has installed sediment basins as needed and increased the farm's ability to support upland game. The cow herd utilizes a rotational grazing system, with about one-third of the herd grazing 25- to 30-acre cells for two weeks at a time.

Return to the farm

Chris grew up near McLouth and established a contracting business, which he sold in 1993, the same year he began farming. He still maintained an interest in the off-farm business, but by 1998 he began farming fulltime.

Conservation practices were necessary to prevent gullies and preserve topsoil. "For me, [conservation practices] preserve the idea of conserving land forever. I want ground to be there for my kids and their kids after I'm gone," he says.

Annual maintenance is necessary, Chris says. Terrace inlets into waterways are "cleaned" of silted soil and crop stubble annually, and waterways are either hayed or mowed each year. Chris also fertilizes the waterways to maximize grass production.

Much of the cropland features a perimeter fence to allow for grazing crop stubble in the fall.

The cow herd

Scene from the McClelland family farmThe McClellands graze three groups of cattle. Two groups are spring-calving cows; the third is a fall-calving group. All use the rotational grazing method by which 30 or so pairs graze in a 25- to 30-acre pasture for a few weeks – until the grass is trimmed to about 4-inches high before rotating to an adjacent pasture of similar size.

The couple's pastures all have perimeter fencing, and while most paddocks are divided by electric fence, they build some permanent fence each year.

Grazing season begins about April 15 and concludes October 15, depending upon the weather.

Pastures also are terraced in case the McClellands decide to convert grassland to cropland one day. "My father always talked about having all the ground terraced to make it as versatile as possible," Chris says.

Story reprinted with permission from Kansas Farmer magazine.

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