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Farm-land areas along streams and waterways can be enrolled

WORTHINGTON -- Over the past five weeks, I have been fortunate enough to have spent a fair amount of time wandering around in the pheasant country in southwest Minnesota and a few other locals. What I have seen is a subtle change from the scenery of 10 years ago. This change is fairly noticeable if you look closely, but would probably be missed by the casual observer.

What I am referring to is the change in farming practices by a growing number of crop producers in our area. There is an ever increasing number of farmers that are enrolling the 60-100 feet of their farms that are located along waterways and streams. This is done as part of a Federal farm program that pays the landowner an annual rental fee to take these sensitive acres out of production in order to protect the water supply in farm country.

It is nice to see this happening and it is my hope that more and more producers will consider it. These are little steps that can be taken to reverse the trend of deteriorating water quality and will help keep the topsoil on the land where it belongs and not in the bottoms of rivers and streams. I have gone one step further on a property that is owned by my folks south of Rushmore.

The ground that I am referring to is a very steep and highly eroded property that has had almost all of the topsoil washed away since it was converted to top row crop many years ago. I contacted the Soil and Water conservation district in Nobles County and with the help of those folks and the experts at the NRCS office, this week marks the completion of the installation of six narrow base terraces on the east half of this farm. The water washed so hard over this ground that it cut gullies that, at times, were almost uncrossable with a 4x4 truck. I don't know how long this condition existed, but I get a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that what little top soil is left will remain for many years to come.

This project was not free or cheap by any means, but there was a variety of cost shares available to help me make this project a reality. The water is designed to be held behind the terrace after a rain event and be slowly drained by the installed tile over a period of about 40 hours. This will protect the topsoil, help reduce flooding, and not drown out what ever is planted behind the terrace in those fields.

In some areas every effort is being made to keep our fertile ground intact, but in other areas like the farm I am referring to it I really wondered what it might have looked like in 20 years -- if nothing had been done. I learned a lot about terraces and their installation and operation with my participation in this project. Dawn and Brad at the NRCS office will take the time to help you understand all of the ins and outs if you just give them a call at 507-376-9150.

Terraces will not be a fix to all of the wildlife habitat issues that affect us, but it will be one piece of the puzzle that will fit with other pieces like waterway setbacks and other wildlife friendly activities to help create a landscape that benefits both wildlife and mankind. A journey starts with a single step. I've taken mine, have you taken yours?