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Conservation Practices Credited with “Saving” Goodhue County Farm

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Conservation Practices Credited with “Saving” Goodhue County Farm

Contour strips were first installed on Dave Betcher’s family farm in the 1950’s when he was a child. His father, Carl Betcher, worked with the local Soil Conservation Service (SCS) staff to install the strips. Betcher still has photos from the 1950’s that depict numerous gullies that were active on the farm. Betcher contends “that if it weren’t for the installation of the contour strips, the family farm would be gone.”

Betcher FarmFast forward to today and Dave Betcher runs the farm with his wife Kay Schwartau. Dave continues to maintain the original contour strips as well as grassed waterways, terraces and a grade stabilization structure he has added over the years. Betcher says the steep slopes and highly erodible land are better protected because of what he and his father have done, but there is more to do. He utilizes or has tried other NRCS-recommended conservation measures including the planting of rye cover crops after corn silage, no-till planting, controlled grazing, wetland restoration and conservation cover.

The longterm use of conservation practices on the Betcher farm made the step into the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), first introduced in 2005, easy. He heard about it at a local town hall informational meeting. He made a CSP application and it ranked high enough for the farm to be enrolled in two contracts; one for his agricultural land the other for the woodland. It is obvious Dave and Kay can take pride in the way they protect and enhance their farm’s natural resources. It’s evident in the large scale, easily seen conservation practices like terraces, contour buffer stips and field borders, but also in the little things. A. wildflower garden near the house attracts various butterflies and pollinator species needed to pollinate nearby flowers and fruit trees increasing yields.

Through the CSP Dave and Kay will be planting additional land into native grasses and forbs as part of their efforts to conserve and enhance the land where they live.

During the interview we spoke of their efforts to restore native vegetation on a small goat prairie north of the house. And Dave told of his efforts at controlling invasive species in his woods – an enhancement he chose for the Conservation Stewardship Program contract.

Controlling the invasive buckthorn in the woods is a lot of extra work for the Betcher family, but they were creative in getting some help in tackling this problem. Each year the Betcher’s allow some hunters to hunt turkeys on their land. This year they asked the hunters to help them improve their land and the result was they had three crews of workers helping them cut and remove buckhorn and treat the stumps.

Sixty years ago Carl Betcher brought soil conservation to the family farm, “saving it” from erosion. Sixty years later, Kay and Dave Betcher are continuing the conservation work and making innovative changes, both large and small, to benefit their farm and the environment.

Dave Betcher says that through their family’s long-term partnership with NRCS, through hard work and innovative practices - their farm will be around for many years to come.

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