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Tour highlights conservation projects completed with stimulus funds

Jim Joens (center) recently completed a terracing project on his land with cost-share provided through the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District's $300,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Joining him are Assistant State Conservationist Gary Watson (from left), Jay Murphy, Dawn Madison, Brad Harberts, John Brach, Stephanie McLain and Kurt Halfmann.1 / 2
Jim Joens talks about how newly installed terraces will work to eliminate gullies on his farmland near Wilmont during a bus tour Wednesday morning sponsored by the K-LR Watershed.2 / 2

ADRIAN -- One year after the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District accepted $245,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars, the K-LR joint powers board hosted a bus tour Wednesday to view some of the terraces completed as a result of the stimulus dollars.

Among the tour stops was a site in Section 1, Larkin Township, where Jim Joens worked with the K-LR to construct terraces on a portion of the land that was prone to flooding and thus, soil erosion.

Joens, who purchased the property about five years ago, said he needed to do something to eliminate the gullies that formed after heavy rains. Until the ARRA funds became available, he said it wasn't financially feasible to do the work.

The local NRCS office, which administered the grant dollars, funded 65 percent of the project in a cost-share with Joens.

"I'm sticking a pretty good wad in it, too, but it's an investment ... for my kids and grandkids," said Joens.

As he pointed toward the gently rolling landscape where the terraces were installed, Joens noted that this was just one side of the farm. He wants to install terraces on the other side as well.

The terraces are sloped in such a way that Joens will be able to farm over them. Through the conservation use program, he planted oats on the site this year, allowing him to still get a crop harvested before the construction work began. Next spring will be his first experience actually using the farmable terraces.

"We're hoping to catch about 20 to 25 acres of water here," he told the more than 30 participants on the tour. "If we can hold water each time, it just prevents it from flooding farther and farther (to the south)."

Though Joens said it will take a while for the project to pay for itself, he's hoping to at least keep his investment in the ground. And with next year's corn costs estimated at $600 to $700 per acre, keeping the seeds from washing away is the best he can hope for.

"I'm kind of excited for next spring to see how this works out," Joens said. "These little projects add to protecting the water quality all the way down the line."

Joens has been using conservation practices on his farmland ever since he was 15 years old and in the FFA. Back then, he worked with contours -- a practice also used by his father to keep soil from washing away.

The project on the Joens farm was one of 20 to be completed in the K-LR Watershed with stimulus funds -- a second grant of approximately $100,000 was received after the first $200,000 was dedicated to projects.

Other projects highlighted on Wednesday morning's tour included a site on the Mike Konz farm in Section 31 of Larkin Township, where terraces will be constructed yet this fall to help eliminate gully erosion; and on the Leonard Grein site in Section 18 of Ransom Township, where terraces have been completed to help control erosion.

"We've done a lot of good projects in this watershed and throughout the county, but we're not done yet," said Stephanie McLain, district conservationist from the Worthington field office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "We're going to keep looking for projects."

Assistant State Conservationist Gary Watson participated in Wednesday's tour and offered his appreciation to the agencies that collaborated to get the projects completed, and the landowners who were willing to do them.

"Because of you, we are able to showcase the good work taking place on the land," Watson said.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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