In 1969, Gary Shick’s neighboring farmers weren’t sure what he was doing —or rather not doing—to his land. The Hardin County Farm Bureau member had just started farming no-till, making him one of the first in the area to use the agricultural practice. Shick is all about learning the newest conservation practices, which is what brought him recently to the Hardin County Field Day.
The event showcased the newest and most innovative ways to reduce nutrient runoff. It was held in Dunkirk at Kurt Farms, one of three farms participating in the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network. The five-year, $1 million demonstration farm project in the Western Lake Erie Basin is a partnership between Ohio Farm Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. The other participating farms are Kellogg Farms in Forest and Stateler Family Farms in McComb.
About 185 people attended the field day to learn about both new and traditional agricultural conservation measures and water quality concerns in Lake Erie and across the state. They learned about soil health, two-stage ditches, blind inlets, edge-of-field research, nutrient management, equipment options for fertilizer incorporation and record keeping.
“Having the demonstration farms set up helps tell the farmers’ story – that we are admitting we are part of the (water quality) problem and are doing whatever we can to help out,” Shick said. “I’ll be interested in what the results are when the project is finished.”
Many who attended said they would be interested in seeing the results before investing more money and time in new conservation measures.
“The way prices are right now, farmers can’t go out and invest in something new right now without knowing how effective it will be. These demonstration farms will help them make the decision down the road on what conservation measure will work best on their farm and if it’s cost effective,” said Aaron Heilers, project manager of the Blanchard River demonstration farms.
Partners on the field day were Hardin and Putnam Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Ohio Farm Bureau, NRCS, Ohio State University Extension, The Nature Conservancy, John Deere, Findlay Implement and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
While the field day was the first official event at the demonstration farms, people have already been inquiring about them after seeing the signs go up at the three farms, Heilers said.
“Our overall goal is to show the science and how these things work and how they can be cost effective,” he said. “While farmers may not be able to do everything, if they can find one thing for their operation, it’s a step in the right direction.”
Interested in seeing the three demonstration farms, which all feature different types of conservation measures? Set up a tour for yourself or a group by contacting Aaron Heilers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-726-7506. You can also hear from the experts who spoke at the Hardin County Field Day.
Photos by Neal Lauron