COLUMBIA CITY — More than 100 people attended the Whitley County Soil and Water Conservation District’s 62nd annual meeting in the fellowship hall at Grace Lutheran Church Feb. 26.
The district hosted the annual meeting to share what it has accomplished during the year, provide its 2017 financial report, elect a supervisor to the board and present awards.
Brian Johnson, from Jefferson Township, was elected to fill the vacancy on the board. Johnson previously served as an associate board member.
The evening’s speaker was Mike Werling from Decatur. Werling is a 20-year veteran no-tiller, who farms 350 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and oats. He has used management practices including cover crops over the past twenty years to boost his soil organic matter levels. Werling has been recognized at the 2017 No-Till Conference for his nutrient management practices.
SWCD board members are Gary Hoffman, Mike Hinen, Cory Studebaker, Brent Emerick and Brian Johnson. Associate board members are William Klenke, Scot Anderson, Dennis Easterday and Gary Lamle. Staff members are Amy Lybarger, Heath Hurst, Kate Sanders and Jon Gotz.
River-Friendly Farmer Award
The River-Friendly Farmer Award was presented to Shady Grove Farms, which mainly operates out of Smith Township. The award is presented by the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and sponsored by the 92 local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Indiana Farm Bureau, since 1999. The statewide initiative recognizes farmers, who through good production management practices, keep Indiana’s rivers, lakes and streams clean.
Shady Grove Farms produces hogs and grain — corn, soybeans and wheat. The Johnson family’s farm is in the Eel Watershed. The farm uses cover crops, which help keep topsoil in place, and minimum tillage, which saves money in fuel and decreases compaction of the soils.
Shady Grove completes soil tests on a regular basis, and the farm also has a number of small wooded areas that provide homes for wildlife. Dave and Ron Johnson were active in 4-H when they were in high school, as well as their four sons: Tim, Kyle, Mark and Austin. Now, even grandchildren are participating in Whitley County 4-H. Dave Johnson was on the Whitley County SWCD and is now on the Whitley County Drainage Board.
Whitley County’s SWCD has awarded the following farmers with the River Friendly Farmer Award: David Schulenburg, Pat Murphy, Dayne Wilkinson, David Zumbrun, Stan Studebaker, Ronald Dunn, Lynn Hindbaugh, Mike Copp, Gary Lamle, Ed Hiss, Fraziers Farms, Chester and Brad Ferrell, Robert Egolf, Roy Pontizius, Dennis Easterday, Hinen Family Farms, Brady Wright, Mike, Jeff and Kurt Hinen, Kenneth and Mike Juillerat, Long Farms (Leon and Chris), Jerry, Richard and Rod Zorger, Mark and Tom Zumbrun, Conrad Farms, Danny Wilkinson, Tom Henney, Dan Michel, River Bend Farms (lynn and John Johnson), Myers Farms (Harold and Mike Myers), Pete Rouch, Hoffman Land and Cattle (Gary Hoffman), Jim Cormany, Kevin Jagger, Brian Ruckman, Randall Studebaker, Drew Farms, Anderson Partnership and Chris Kauffman.
Infield Advantage works with small regional groups of farmers who are interested in improving their nutrient use efficiency on their corn fields by sharing their management decisions and resulting impact those decisions had on their production with a goal of creating personalize local guidance for future management innovations.
This year, the program completed its seventh year and continues to be one of the largest adaptive nutrient management farmer networks in the country. In 2017, there were 35 active regional groups located across more than 60 Indiana counties. State-wide, nearly 1,100 fields, over 70,000 acres, were monitored using the Infield Advantage tools.
Based on participants survey, the participants have a direct impact on the management of more than 500,000 cropland acres across the state. Here in Whitley County, the 2017 program had 14 farmers and 23 fields enrolled in the program. Nadean Lamle handed out Infield Advantage caps to participants attending the meeting.
• March 8 will be be Ag Day with the all the Whitley County first graders, with the assistance of the Whitley County Farm Bureau Inc., Purdue Cooperative Extension Service and help from the Columbia City FFA Chapter, the SWCD hosts Ag Day, for all the first graders from Little Turtle, Coesse, Northern Heights, Mary Raber, Churubusco, South Whitley and Faith Christian Academy. The event is held at the 4-H Center at the fairgrounds. There are stops consisting of different types of farm animals, tractors and FFA members as our speakers.
• Northeast Envirothon is going to be March 15, the SWCD will be hosting the Northeast Envirothon at Peabody Public Library. High school teams are tested in five subjects: Soil/land area, aquatic, ecology, wildlife, forestry and this year’s current topic Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship. The two top teams have the opportunity to go on to the state contest which is April 25 at Beck Agricultural Center at West Lafayette.
• Arbor Day in Columbia City will be Friday, April 20. The Soil and Water Conservation District works with the Columbia City Tree Board to host an Arbor Day event with the Mary Raber Elementary School second graders. It is open to the public. If interested in attending, contact Nadean Lamle at the office for more information 244-6266, ext. 101.
• Conservation Day Camp is Aug. 7. The Day Camp is meant for boys and girls ages of 9–12 and is held at Camp Whitley. The campers will get a chance to try their hand at shooting skeet with a shotgun with the assistance of local conservation officers, practice archery, build a birdhouse, see some reptiles native to Indiana and at the end of the day a swim in the Troy-Cedar Lake. The camp begins at 9:15 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per camper, including their lunch and birdhouse.
• Fifth grade field days will be Sept. 12 and 13. The Whitley SWCD hosts all the fifth graders from Mary Raber, Coesse, Northern Heights, Little Turtle, South Whitley, Churubusco and Faith Academy at the 4-H fairgrounds, along with the Purdue Extension Service, many volunteer speakers and the Columbia City FFA Chapter.
County participates in transects
The Whitley County SWCD participates in the bi-annual transects along with Indiana State Department of Agriculture and National Resource Conservation Service. Transects give the conservation partners the opportunity to observe the current land use conditions and discuss the resource needs and accomplishments related to the soil and water resources in the county. The tillage transect is a cropland survey which is conducted in every county in by the Indiana Conservation Partnership, which is made up of groups such as Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Indiana State Department of Agriculture and Natural Resource Conservation Service. The Whitley County partnership uses a predetermined route consisting of 323 points that information is recorded each time a transect is done.
Staff looks at farm fields in Whitley County, collecting data on items such as tillage methods, plant cover and residue, to tell the story of conservation effects in Whitley County. Transects are usually conducted bi-annually in the spring before crops are planted to see how much residue is in the fields. The fall transect looks for living plant cover such as cover crops and winter cereal grains. These important plants protect soil from rain and snow and helps retain valuable nutrients in the fields benefiting water quality and feeding diverse populations of soil biology. Residues protect plays a key role in building soil organic matter and soil health.
Bringing dollars in
The National Resource Conservation Service has helped bring dollars into Whitley County.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial and technical assistance to farmers to address natural resources concerns and deliver environmental benefits, such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, or improved or created wildlife habitat.
Eligible program participants receive financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices or activities like conservation planning that address natural resource concerns on their land. EQIP dollars can be used for wildlife enhancement, livestock watering facilities, pastureland improvements, manure management, soil health practices, water quality practices and forestry management. Payments are made to participants after conservation practices and activities identified in an EQIP plan of operations are implemented.
In 2017, Whitley County had 40 EQIP contracts which had $649,000.30 in obligated funds which impacted 5,466.4 acres.
The Conservation Stewardship Program helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems on their land and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resource concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance — the higher the performance, the higher the payment — with a limit of $40,000 annually over 5 years.
Through CSP, participants take additional steps to improve the resource conditions on their land, including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation.
CSP provides two types of payments through five-year contracts: annual payments for applying new conservation activities and maintaining existing conservation systems, and supplemental payments for adopting a resource-conserving crop rotation. Producers may be able to renew a contract if they have successfully fulfilled the initial contract and agree to achieve additional conservation objectives.
In 2017, Whitley County had six CSP contracts which had $145,276 in funds, impacting 3,318.1 acres.