Success Stories

Profiling Iowa's Conservation Successes in 2012 & 2013

Tim Smith in his cereal rye cover crop field.

MRBI Conservation Practices Improving Soil Conditions, Too

Eagle Grove farmer Tim Smith’s participation in a USDA conservation program designed to reduce nutrient and sediment loading into local waterways  – and eventually the Mississippi River – is also improving the health of his soils using fewer disturbing activities such as deep tillage, over-fertilizing, and keeping living roots in the ground longer through cover crops.

Smith (PDF, 3 MB) | (html)

Joe Kriegel, a Brooklyn farmer, shows off his red clover cover crop field.

Kriegel Ahead of Cover Crops Trend

The number of cover crop acres has increased dramatically over the past five years in Iowa – from less than 10,000 acres in 2009 to about 300,000 acres this fall. One Iowa farmer who is helping to increase that number is Joe Kriegel who farms and grows cover crops on more than 2,000 acres in Poweshiek County with his three sons, Patrick, Nicholas, and Jared.

Kriegel (PDF, 6 MB) | (html)

Bill Totemeier Showcase Photo

Mob Grazing Produces Healthy Soil and Livestock

Many attribute Iowa’s agricultural soil erosion and water quality issues to row crop production. However, open – or continuous – grazing can also lead to gullies and cattle trails that can cause severe erosion and sediment runoff, as well as reduce forage tonnage produced on Iowa pastures.

Totemeier (PDF, 6 MB) | (html)

Don Elsbernd kneels in his strip-till corn.

Conservation, Profits Outweigh Crop Yields

Growing strong crop yields is important to farmer Don Elsbernd, but the National Corn Growers Association member is more interested in protecting his natural resources and improving profit margins through soil conservation practices.

Elsbernd (PDF, 7 MB) | (html)

– Crawford County farmer Craig Brodersen examines his soils after five inches of rain fell in one ho

Cover Crops Hold Soil Through Heavy Rain

Charter Oak farmer Craig Brodersen chose the right year to start using cover crops. He aerial-applied winter hardy cereal rye for the first time last fall into 400 corn acres, and it helped dramatically reduce erosion on much of his newly planted soybean ground this spring.

Brodersen (PDF, 444 KB) | (html)

Mike Jung in fen wetland

Easement Ensures Family Farm Preserved

A unique wetland north of Charles City is helping to filter out upland sediment and other chemicals from ag runoff flowing into the Little Cedar River, and fulfilling a family’s goals by preserving the land and providing a wildlife haven on their farm.

Savage WRP (PDF, 2.9 MB) | (html)

Dennis Lundy Headshot

Premier Iowa Hay Grower Discovers Soil Health with No-Till Alfalfa

Adair County farmer Dennis Lundy began no-tilling alfalfa hay for the first time five years ago to prevent soil erosion on his rolling, highly erosive Shelby soils. Now, he is not only reducing soil erosion but also improving his soil health and achieving better alfalfa stands.

Lundy (PDF, 2 MB) | (html)

Wade Mitchell

Good Practices Ensure Healthy Soils

Wade Mitchell of Tama County is farming with soil health and protection as his primary goal, and producing better yields - naturally.

Mitchell (PDF, 2 MB) | (html)

Julita and Tom Pollard

Neglected Forest Now Picture Perfect

A recently completed tree thinning project on 90 acres of Clarke County woodlands will provide many benefits to a hardwood stand of hickory, oak and walnut trees neglected for decades.

Pollard (PDF, 3 MB) | (html)

Kris Wernimont

Iowa Landowner Continues Husband's Conservation Legacy

Pancreatic cancer ended Iowa farmer Al Wernimont’s life in November 2011, but not before his 30 years of conservation achievements were rewarded by a Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) contract. His wife, Kris, chose to continue their CSP contract and Al’s conservation legacy after working closely with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff in Atlantic, Iowa.

Kris Wernimont (PDF, 2 MB) | (html)

Christopher Garcia

Despite Tough Working Conditions, Garcia Builds Foundation for Successful Organic Farm

The summer of 2012 wasn’t a good time to start growing organic fruits and vegetables or graze livestock for Woodward farmer Christopher Garcia. Produce required immeasurable amounts of water and attention, and livestock needed hay to supplement drought-affected pasture. If there was a silver lining in what was an otherwise dreadful summer, it was Garcia’s new business plan and infrastructure needed to build a successful future.

Christopher Garcia (PDF, 3 MB) | (html)

Rick Hornsby

Iowa Farmer Credits USDA Conservation Program for Small Farm Development

An operator of a small Woodward farm credits USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with helping to raise his business to the “next level.” Rick Hornsby says NRCS provided sound conservation planning advice and financial assistance to implement new practices that take advantage of existing resources for water supply and help livestock graze more efficiently.

Rick Hornsby (PDF, 3.2 MB) | (html)

Ray Menke

Non-disturbance Practices Help Menke Through Drought

Ray Menke of rural Fort Madison admits the main reason he switched to no-till farming in 1987 was his inability to afford new expensive farm equipment and machinery. Now, 25 years later, Menke is still leaving the soil undisturbed and he’s reaping the benefits during this year’s extreme drought.

Ray Menke (PDF, 2 MB) | (html)

Seasonal High Tunnel

Seasonal High Tunnel Systems Promote Plant Health, Provide Longer Growing Season

February is typically a few months before Iowa planters begin to roll, but for some farmers the late winter months are the start to a ten-month growing season.

Seasonal high tunnels are designed to extend the growing season of fruits and vegetables while providing protection from outside factors like wind and insects. High tunnels improve the profitability of crops and maximize farm productivity.

Seasonal High Tunnels (PDF, 1.7 MB) | (html)

John Aschenbrenner

New Wetland to Improve Water Quality in West Lake

A newly created private wetland in Clarke County north of West Lake is now protecting this public drinking water source for the city of Osceola and other county residents.

Landowner John Aschenbrenner utilized a conservation practice called Wetland Creation to dam a 23-acre pool area on bottom ground along South Squaw Creek. The wetland collects water from 3,820 acres above it – nearly 60 percent of West Lake’s 6,400-acre drainage area. The wetland will act like a water purification plant helping to remove chemicals and filter out sediment.

Aschenbrenner (PDF, 1 MB) | (html)

Brent and Teresa Voss

From Concrete to CSP for Conservation Stewardship

When Brent and Teresa Voss moved to rural Dexter in 1994 they viewed it as more of a place to settle their concrete/foundation business than to develop a large farming operation. But that soon changed. Just a week after purchasing their home property, they bought a nearby 80 acres of farmland.

Nearly two decades later the couple still has their booming concrete business – Voss Concrete, Inc. – but they also have a booming farming operation with 2,000 acres of crop, hay and pastureland, as well as 300 cows and between 500-1,000 feeder cattle.

Voss (PDF, 1 MB) | (html)

White Radish

Cover Crop Club Learning to Manage Practice Together

Trying something new and innovative is always easier when you can learn from someone else’s experience. For a small group of innovative Pottawattamie County farmers experimenting with cover crops, that someone else is Pete Hobson.

Cover Crop Club (PDF, 1.5 MB) | (html)

More Iowa NRCS Conservation Success Stories