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Small, Limited Resource, Beginning Farmer | Success Story | Helen Goebel

Landowner Uses EQIP to Treat Grazing Land Concerns in Woodson County, Kansas


Photo of Helen Goebel standing by the mailbox at Hilltop FarmsHelen Goebel and husband Walter originally bought their farm in southeast Kansas in Woodson County in 1959 where Helen still lives with her two dogs and cat.

Walt passed away in 1998 and since then, Helen has continued running the operation. She currently runs 57 cow/calf pairs. (Helen and Walter ran up to 100 cow/calf pairs.)

Originally, the farm was 180 acres. Helen now owns approximately 1020 acres (225 acres in cropland, 29 acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, and the rest in rangeland).

The farm sits on top of a hill about two miles northeast of Yates Center, Kansas, in Woodson County. Because of this, the farm is known in the area as Hilltop Farm. It even says this on the mailbox. Helen says she still has some mail delivered that is addressed to Hilltop Farm.

Helen does most of the work herself. She checks, feeds, and cares for the cattle. She implements the rotation as set up in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contract. Her adult son, Steve Goebel, helps when needed.

EQIP Program

Helen first heard about the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) EQIP program over the radio. Then, she remembers seeing an advertisement in the local Yates Center newspaper.

Helen owns 340 acres of native grass rangeland just north of Hilltop Farm that she knew was being overtaken by brush. Brush species, such as blackberry, sumac, and dogwood, were on the verge of overtaking the rangeland.

Helen came into the local NRCS Service Center and spoke with District Conservationist Kris Ethridge, Yates Center Field Office, about the EQIP program and if it could be a possible solution to ridding the rangeland of its brush problem.

"I knew we were going to have to do something (about the brush)," said Helen, "and the EQIP program just really seemed to fit." The EQIP program made spraying the rangeland for brush economically possible for Helen.

Photo of cross fencing and brush managementHelen and Ethridge set up a conservation plan to address the concerns on the grazed land unit that included cost sharing on cross-fencing, implementing a grazing rotation, and combining prescribed burns with two scheduled chemical aerial applications for brush management.

After the first year of the contract, according to Ethridge, Helen has successfully implemented a prescribed burn, one year of the prescribed grazing rotation, and one chemical application for brush management.

"The native tall grass rangeland is already showing a tremendous increase in productivity," commented Ethridge. The contract is scheduled to continue through 2007 (five years total), and will include one more chemical application, two more prescribed burns, and continued prescribed grazing rotations.

The EQIP contract provides Helen with cost-share funds and incentive payments to treat her grazing land concerns and increase the land's overall health and productivity.

Ethridge asked Helen if the added burden of the EQIP required stocking rates, grazing exclusion cages, and rotation schedule were a nuisance.

"No, in fact, I really didn’t even think about it," Helen said.

"At first it seems like you're rotating every few days, but then the rotations get much longer, and the grass really looks better," she said. She is implementing a rotation which involves rotating her cattle three times through four separate paddocks over the course of the growing season.

Helen was pleased with the results of the first chemical application for the brush management practice. Most of the blackberries and sumac appear to have been killed.

EQIP is a voluntary program that offers financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who face threats to soil, water, air and related natural resources on their land.

NRCS is working to ensure through EQIP that technical and financial assistance is fully available to farmers and ranchers with limited resources. Funding provided through the EQIP is available to help farmers and ranchers with limited resources develop and maintain economic viability in their farm operations.

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Success Story - Helen Goebel (PDF; 206 KB)