October 31, 2007
Putnam County, Ohio
Cash Crop Operation
One look at the idyllic homestead created by the Weller family of Putnam County, Ohio, gives the visitor an immediate impression of the Weller's love of the land. Colorful plantings, a stocked pond and purple martin houses serve as a haven for wildlife in the foreground, with lush cropland beyond. A barn and other out buildings complete the homestead where Arden Weller's family has lived for over 130 years.
The Weller's take obvious delight in sharing the abundance they have created on their 320 acre farm using conservation practices and programs. Acres and acres of land planted to grasses and wildflowers over a ten year period as part of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sway in the summer breeze. Arden and his wife, Kay, frequently take their four wheeler and drive to the far reaches of their property to inspect and enjoy the beautiful wildlife habitat they've created.
On the back acreage of the farm once planted to row crops, newly created wetlands provide both food and a stop over point for migratory waterfowl. A total of 10 acres of wetlands curve around islands planted with large conifers Weller laboriously transported and planted. The CRP program provided cost-share for establishing the wetland. Nearby, a lush food plot planted to provide food for wildlife in the winter months grows. The corn in the plot is healthier and heartier than most other corn planted as part of cropping systems on nearby farms, in spite of the droughty summer. Weller personally funds his food plots to the tune of over $300 per acre.
District Conservationist Terry Schroeder has worked in Putnam County for over 20 years and has been instrumental in providing the Wellers with technical and financial assistance to reach their conservation goals. Schroeder says, "Arden and Kay can talk to you about their land and the wildlife they see on it for hours. They really love their land and notice everything that happens on it." One person in particular has been influenced by the Weller's conservation activities, their neighbor Dean Schlacter.
Dean purchased his 77 acre plot next to the Weller property five years ago. With a brother enrolled in CRP and with the Weller's conservation showcase next door, Schlacter was motivated to buy land just to enhance it for wildlife. Schlacter, like Weller, has planted various native grasses including switch grass and big blue stem. He has also created wetlands and has a pond stocked with catfish so big they can eat whole slice of bread in one bite!
Though a hunter himself, Schlacter does not hunt on his own land. He emphasizes that the wildlife on his property is for pure enjoyment. Weller and Schlacter hold similar views on hunting. Weller hunts one deer once a year on his property. "He has a spot in the middle of one of the food plots," Schlacter jokes. "He's [Weller] only out there for about 15 minutes, that's how long it takes to get his buck. Then he packs up and goes back to the house."
Between the two of them, Weller and Schlacter have created flourishing wildlife habitat second to none in Putnam County.