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Iowa Conservation Showcase 2009

Conservation Showcase

Profiling Iowa's Conservation Successes in 2009

The McCulley brothers (Bob, left, and John, right) look at an aerial view of the land they have entered in to the EWP-Floodplain Easements.

Easement Program Right for Flooded Cropland

When brothers Bob and John McCulley of Oakville purchased 184 acres of crop ground and timberland along the Iowa River floodplain five years ago they knew the land was susceptible to seep water and high river levels. But the events of June 2008 were beyond their worst nightmare.

McCulley (PDF, 1.8 MB) | McCulley (html)

Felipe Urquiza

Flood Risk Too High for Urquiza

Following the June 2008 floods when a levee broke along the Iowa River sending torrents of water out of its banks, Felipe Urquiza of Wapello knew floodwaters would always threaten his home and 13-acre farm that sit in the Iowa River floodplain in Louisa County.

Urquiza (PDF, 1.9 MB) | Urquiza (html)

Bob (left) and Jim Rasmuson overlook the land they sold to be restored as a wetland. The brothers are confident their late mother would be happy with the new resting place for migrating birds.

Restored Wetland Perfect for Migrating Birds

Following the 2006 death of their mother, Carol, the Rasmuson Family of Britt decided to sell a majority of their century-old farm to be converted to wetlands. This was something their mother wanted, and would create habitat threatened nesting and migrating waterfowl needed.

Rasmuson WRP (PDF, 1.7 MB) | Rasmuson WRP (html)

(From Left) NRCS District Conservationist Kevin Kordick, Soil Conservation Technician Carolyn Schwartz and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Kraig McPeek stand near Terry Adams’ newly restored oxbow.

Partnership Helping to Restore Topeka Shiner Habitat

A committed effort by conservation-minded partners and private landowners helped to restore 13 oxbow wetlands along floodplains in the North Raccoon River Watershed to increase the population of the Topeka shiner, an endangered fish species.

Topeka Shiner (PDF, 1.9 MB) | Topeka Shiner (html)

Steve Gustafson

Manure Storage Eliminates Winter Application

Watching liquid hog manure run off snow-covered cropland bothered Boone County farmer Steve Gustafson, but he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. Gustafson won’t be applying manure to his cropland during the winter months, thanks to more storage capacity.

Gustafson (PDF, 1.7 MB) | Gustafson (html)

Gary Hargroves

Monona County Farmer Saving Grassland from Tree Invasion

When Gary Hargroves purchased his first of two farms in the Loess Hills more than ten years ago, you couldn’t see the hills through the trees. Instead of a mixture of native warm-season grasses and wildflowers that support cattle grazing and wildlife, a nearly impenetrable mass of Eastern red cedar trees covered his land.

Hargroves (PDF, 1.6 MB) | Hargroves (html)

Dick Schleis

Little Sioux Structures Provide Big Benefits

Monona County farmer Dick Schleis was born within a few years after Congress approved the Little Sioux Watershed for flood and erosion control projects in 1944. As he grew up, so did the watershed project covering the landscape with various conservation practices to control flooding and save soil.

Schleis (PDF, 1.3 MB) | Schleis (html)

Richard Doll (left) and Steve Archer (right)

Swans Nest in Restored Appanoose County Wetlands

For the first time in more than a century trumpeter swans nested in Appanoose County, thanks in part to restored and enhanced wetlands and other habitat implemented by outdoor enthusiasts Steve Archer and Richard Doll of rural Moulton.

Swans (PDF, 2 MB) | Swans (html)

Butch Schroeder

More Acres Can Also Mean More Conservation

As the number of Iowa farmers decreases and the average farm size increases, that can mean more conservation on the ground – especially when it’s farmed by environmental stewards like Paul “Butch” Schroeder of Coon Rapids.

Schroeder (PDF, 2.2 MB) | Schroeder (html)

Collin Jensen

Jensen Succeeds with Spring Strip-till

Simultaneous strip-till, fertilizer application and planting is the right springtime combination for Fayette County corn and soybean producer Collin Jensen, who saves fuel, reduces soil erosion, improves soil quality and lessens compaction by farming this way.

Jensen (PDF, 1.5 MB) | Jensen (html)


Iowa Farmer Finds Profit in Wheat

For the last four years Oakland farmer Dwight “Pete” Hobson has experimented with a new cash crop—wheat. He grows it on field borders or headlands; farmland not usually known for producing income. He used the wheat to increase income, slow erosion and improve soil tilth.    

Hobson (PDF, 1.6 MB) | Hobson (html)

Bill Hammitt

Conservation Plan Leads to Better Soil Quality

Harrison County farmer Bill Hammitt says his soil looks as good as potting soil purchased at a garden shop. “My soil is real loose, real mellow and high in organic matter just like potting soil,” said Hammitt. “The only difference is my soil has earthworms in it and potting soil doesn’t.”    

Hammitt (PDF, 1.7 MB) | Hammitt (html)

Sid Baumert

Dam Stops Land Theft

During the years nearly 10 percent of Sid Baumert’s Woodbury County farm disappeared; carried by water erosion down a no-name creek to the Missouri River. It left behind a 100-foot wide, 45-foot deep gully preventing him from accessing a 40-acre field. Without intervention, the gully promised to continue cutting through Baumert’s fields, eroding more soil and taking more land.   

Baumert (PDF, 1.1 MB) | Baumert (html)

Tony Schroeder

Schroeder Applies Swine Manure Using Low Disturbance Method

For more than 20 years Plymouth County farmer Tony Schroeder applied swine manure to his cropland using disk blades attached to a honey wagon, leaving less than 20 percent residue cover. But after seeing his neighbor knife in swine manure using a low soil disturbance method three years ago, Schroeder decided this was an application process he should try.

Schroeder (PDF, 1.1 MB) | Schroeder (html)

Mel Pacovsky

Windbreaks for Wildlife Lead to Wellness

Conservation improvements on Mel Pacovsky’s farms are giving him an unexpected benefit: better health. Pacovsky, 71, calls his windbreaks, Christmas trees, black walnuts and other conservation practices his wellness centers.

Pacovsky (PDF, 1.5 MB) | Pacovsky (html)

Dallas Janssen

Farmers Use Conservation Plan to Help Save Lizard Lake

Lizard Lake in Pocahontas County is dying and Bill Cirks and Dallas Janssen want to save it. They say the lake once had excellent water quality, but no more. They want the old Lizard Lake back and are fighting to get it by implementing a conservation plan experts say is helping to revive the dying lake.  

Janssen (PDF, 1.4 MB) | Janssen (html)

Rich Juchems

Juchems Leads Spike in Neighborhood Conservation Practices

Northeast Butler County is home to a neighborhood of farms well protected by conservation measures. District Conservationist Lawrence Green credits farmer Rich Juchems as the cause. He says because Juchems leads by example, the area around Juchems' farms are a hotspot of conservation activity.

Juchems (PDF, 1 MB) | Juchems (html)


Farmer Adds Land for Wildlife, Flood Protection

Butler County farmer Max Folkerts is bucking a trend. Instead of pulling acres out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), he says he is happy to reduce downstream flooding and improve habitat by adding 140 acres of his land to a new CRP practice called State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE).

Folkerts (PDF, 900 KB) | Folkerts (html)

Jon Gisleson

Floyd County Farmer Hates Erosion

Floyd County farmer Jon Gisleson says tilling the earth black doesn’t make sense. “There is no reason to till the soil black when the long-term benefits of no-till and strip-till are huge. Conservation tillage is just good business sense. Everyone needs to be on-board,” he said.

Gisleson (PDF, 1.1 MB) | Gisleson (html)

The Beyers

Flooding Victim Fights Back

As many farmers experienced this past spring and summer, it’s tough to stay in farming when your cropland floods an average of four out of every five years, says Larry Beyer. He should know. It used to happen to him before 1993, but not any more thanks to state and federal groups working together to reduce the impact of flooding in the Iowa River Valley. Work that still benefits local farmers today.   

Beyer (PDF, 1.6 MB) | Beyer (html)

Tom Niewohner

Strip-Till Mitigates River Bottom Soils Issues

Strip-till is helping Monona County farmer Tom Niewohner overcome drainage, soil erosion and compaction issues on his 1,400-acre farm that sits along the Missouri River floodplain. Learn what this veteran strip-tiller uses for machinery, how and when he fertilizes, his performance and yields and management tips he provides.

Niewohner (PDF, 1.5 MB) | Niewohner (html)

Jamie Busch-Upah

Farm Conservation Contributes to Tourism Success

The John Ernest Winery is owned by ten members of the John Kopsa family and managed by Jamie Busch-Upah. Busch-Upah says the John Ernest Vineyard and Winery began in 1980 as a farm owned by John Kopsa. Back then he grew traditional Iowa crops of corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Kopsa planted on the contour, installed soil conservation structures, enrolled land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and planted filter strips and windbreaks.

John Ernest Winery (PDF, 1 MB) | John Ernest Winery (html)

Larry Beeler, East Peru Farmer

Beeler Honored for 50 Years of Service to Conservation

A cafeteria full of well-wishers recently honored Larry Beeler of East Peru for 50 years of service to the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). The district recognized Beeler for his long service as a commissioner and his conservation work at a dinner held Jan. 17 at the I-35 High School in Truro.  

Beeler (PDF, 3.5 MB) | Beeler (html)

Nate Ronsiek

26-Year-Old Farmer Builds Successful Operation with No-Till

"Nate may only be 26-years-old, but he farms like a conservation veteran," says long-time Sioux County District Conservationist Greg Marek. Nate Ronsiek, a young Hawarden farmer, works with Marek, a USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employee, to address resource concerns on his land. “Nate has been farming a short time, but he's doing a lot of things right on his farm that are saving him money and improving the environment. I wish more people would do what Nate does," says Marek, who has worked with Ronsiek since 2005.

Ronsiek (PDF, 1.8 MB) | Ronsiek (html)

Ben Johnson

Young Farmer Credits Input Savings for Full-Time Employment

Agricultural statistics say Ben Johnson is very unusual. He is a 25-year-old full-time farmer, who doesn’t need off-farm income to survive. Johnson says he’s living his dream and he credits good stewardship and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for making his full-time farming dream possible.

Ben Johnson (PDF, 1.9 MB) | Ben Johnson (html)

Gil Winter

NFL Star Credited With Starting Farmer Building Terraces

Former Miami Dolphins defensive end Vern Den Herder earned many football awards over the years, including two Super Bowl rings and being named to the College Football Hall of Fame. Plymouth County farmer Gilbert Winter says he wants to add an unofficial award to the list. He names Den Herder as the man responsible for showing him the value of terraces and the benefits they provide to the land.

Winter (PDF, 1.3 MB) | Winter (html)

Don Quastad

Family Farm Team Dams Gully Growth

Three generations of Quastad men are putting a plug into erosion on their family farm. They are building a dam to stop additional gully growth on their Emmet County land. Experts say their work will also help others downstream by improving water quality and reducing the potential for flooding.

Quastad (PDF, 1.4 MB) | Quastad (html)

More Iowa NRCS Conservation Success Stories