Nemaha County Conservation District names award winners
Submitted by Dana Schmelzle, Nemaha County Conservation District
The Nemaha County Conservation District has announced district award winners.
Bob and Nadine Champlin – Wildlife Award
Bob and Nadine Champlin purchased their property west of Sabetha – approximately 42 acres – in 2009. In 2012, they started building their house on the north end of the property, and at the same time they dug out the pond that was silted in and shallow.
After the pond was drained and the dam rebuilt they went to work planting native grasses and forbs on the dam and buffer area between the pond and crop land. They used the services of Pheasants Forever and the folks at the National Resources Conservation Service Office to select native grasses and forbs that do best in our area. They wanted the tall grasses because they are good protection and are an important food source for birds and other wildlife.
The Champlins have a conservation ethic as Nadine has a special interest in nature as she has a horticulture science degree and is a landscape designer for Grimm’s Gardens. She currently serves on the Kansas Native Plant Society Board and is a certified nurseryman with the Kansas Nursery and Landscape Association.
Bob serves on the Nemaha County board of Pheasants Forever and is an avid hunter and fisherman. Both grew up on farms in North Central Kansas and have seen the decline of pheasants and wildlife over the years.
“We have a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature and the importance of being a good steward of the land to preserve it for future generations. Our grandchildren love to come to visit and play in the open fields; fish in the pond; and will soon learn to hunt as well,” the Champlins said.
This last spring, the Champlins added a buffer strip on the west side of their property between the timber and cropland and once it is established it will connect the buffer on the east side of the pond and property. Connecting habitat for wildlife is important, and the grass buffer helps create that edge habitat that is much needed for many types of wildlife.
Other wildlife work that the Champlins have completed on their property consists of having a wildlife plot on the south end of the property behind the pond dam. In this area, they have added several varieties of Oak trees and Black Cherry in the native wooded area. They also have an area of milo or a millet mixture to provide extra forage for wildlife.
“We walk often through the buffer area to be aware of problems. It is a fun hobby and we are rewarded with several covey of quail that we can hear cooing in the early morning and evening hours! We were excited to see two rooster pheasants this winter when our sons were home and out enjoying a hunt,” the Champlins said about the buffer.
Lane and Carol Deters – Windbreak Award
Why would you spend so much time planting trees? It’s a fair question, and one that Lane Deters can provide multiple answers for. After all, if our count is correct, he’s been involved in planting over 800 of them.
As a family with a history of working on projects together, Lane and Carol Deters worked together with their children Calie, Avrey and Andrew to plant and care for trees just as Lane helped his family — Bernie and Edie Deters, three brothers and two sisters — when he was younger.
That means all of the family gets involved with the planting, watering and maintenance of tree plantings. Their efforts have resulted in multi-species, multi-function windbreaks planted over multiple years and even multiple farms that will provide benefits for years to come.
The Deters family has a number of reasons for the tree plantings on their farms. Their farming operation is diverse, and includes a dairy cow herd (with brother Dale), beef cow-calf herd, and row crop acreage as well. The windbreaks are especially important to the livestock portions of the farming operation. If there are cattle around or a building to protect, a windbreak is in place to provide that protection. The windbreaks help protect buildings in the event of storm events.
The operation’s focus is to “take care of the cows.” Protection and cover for animals is a huge asset to the plantings, as they provide protection to help reduce stress on the farm’s dairy and beef herds as well as providing a wildlife benefit. In addition to protection of the animal and building assets, the windbreaks make things more comfortable around the farmstead, helping to reduce winter winds while providing an energy cost savings.
While traditional windbreaks tend to be a row or two of evergreens, the Deters family has implemented the planting of multiple species of deciduous trees to complement established evergreen species. In all, the windbreak includes over half a dozen deciduous trees plus another half dozen fruit trees. If you do the math, the plantings that multiple members and multiple generations of the Deters family have been involved with total well over 800 trees planted over three decades.
The Deters family is involved in the 4-H Program, Centralia Pride and are members of the Sacred Heart Parish of Baileyville.
Kevin and Deb Kramer – Grassland Award
Cutting brush and cleaning up a pasture isn’t typically high on the “I look forward to that” list for many livestock producers. For Grassland Award winners Kevin and Deb Kramer; however, it might be one of his more enjoyable tasks. In fact, they would tell you that they enjoy cleaning them up.
In 1993, the Kramers purchased their first property, a mostly native grass pasture that included a little fescue. After some improvements, he started work on another pasture, and continues today with a third pasture in the process of renovation.
Renovation practices start with efforts to shore up fences. Improved and permanent corrals give them the opportunity better handle livestock in the pastures. Rocks are piled. A tree shear is used to remove trees and increase grazeable acreage. Ponds are repaired with dams seeded down and watering systems evaluated. In cases where rural water is available, waterers are installed to give them a reliable water source in times when ponds can’t provide what they need.
The pastures do have to produce pounds of beef for the family’s herd that includes Angus, Red Angus and Charolais lines, but stocking rates are adjusted so that the grass has an opportunity to recover and produce for the next year as well. Regular prescribed burns help encourage grass production while helping complement weed and brush control efforts as well.
Their pasture management efforts on the operation really enhance the forage biomass available for grazing. In fact, their grasslands are even healthy enough to support wildlife conservation efforts as well. For a family that enjoys hunting as much as the Kramers, the acreage serves as a great spot for wildlife enhancement, promoting deer, coyote, ducks and geese in designated wildlife plantings across their farms.
Kevin is a Knights of Columbus Member. He and Deb are members of the Sacred Heart Church in Baileyville. All three of the couple’s children have had a hand in the renovations, and get to enjoy the fruits of their labor even now. Kelsey’s family resides in Kansas City but makes it back to hunt on occasion. Ashley does the same even as a student in Industrial Engineering at KSU. Kyle is a sophomore in Agribusiness at KSU and assists with the family’s cowherd as well.
Ron and Chantel Heinen – Banker’s Award
There are a number of guiding principles that help direct the conservation work that Ron Heinen helps oversee on his family’s farm. At the end of the day, they all add up to a belief that the opportunity to take shortcuts when it comes to conservation work are few and far between. With a mindset like that, it’s not a surprise that the family continues a long heritage of conservation work.
As conservation practices have evolved, the adoption of them by the Heinens continues to grow. Technology that helps improve efficiencies has been adopted. Field maps and prescriptions allow them to fine tune seeding and fertility programs. Cover crops are used on about a third of the acres each year to help limit erosion on highly erodible areas. As an emerging conservation practice, Ron sees them as a new era of erosion control that will continue to be important to agricultural producers.
Conservation work is an ongoing part of the farming operation. Work done years ago continues to be maintained and in some cases improved as farming practices change. The Heinen family continues to evaluate what can help them improve conservation efforts on their farms, relying on their own knowledge of the land in combination with technical assistance from the local NRCS Office staff.
To Ron, it doesn’t have to be incredibly unique or complicated — just effective. They employ the expertise of good contractors to help them find techniques that are proven to make their conservation efforts effective. Their thin soils don’t allow them to waste much time. Instead, conservation efforts are completed as in as timely a manner as possible to soils can be built — not lost.
Ron and Chantel reside near Goff where he serves in multiple roles with the Goff Fire Department and as a board member with Rural Water District No. 4. Chantel works as an RN with the Community Health System and serves on the fire department as well. Both are active in school and church groups with their children.
Ron is the fourth generation of Heinens involved in agriculture. With any luck, his children — Tyler, Marcus and Claire — will be the fifth. Their conservation work is performed with the idea that soils can be enhanced and managed to provide for another generation of agriculture producers.
Darrin and Cheryl Deters – Water Quality Award
A dairy doesn’t just stop for conservation work. Cows still have to be cared for and work still has to get done so that milk can be produced. That means when conservation work calls, you answer — quickly!
Darrin and Cheryl Deters did just that, working diligently over a six-month time span between June and November of 2017 to address some needed upgrades on their dairy farm. The project centered around changes to the water discharge system associated with their milk barn. Along the way, they also made changes that would better allow them to manage the run off from their cow lots.
To get the work in as short a time as possible, the family worked alongside multiple contractors. One contractor did dirt work to ready the area for a settling basin, as well as adding filter strips. Another focused on the water discharge system coming from the milk barn. A third managed the concrete layout and construction of a settling basin. The result: a new and improved water management system that improves the quality of the water coming off of their milking facilities, allowing them to maximize their water resources.
During the same six-month period, the family also undertook 7,000 feet of tile and terrace work. It was a lot of improvement to benefit conservation in a very short time.
Darrin and Cheryl are members of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Baileyville. Cheryl is a second grade teacher at Centralia Elementary School. Their daughter Jesslyn and her husband Dustin Gullickson live in Hiawatha. Cole, their oldest son, is involved in the farming operation — the third generation of this Deters family to do so. Their youngest son Peyton attends Manhattan Area Technical College and is in his last year of schooling. He also helps out with the dairy operation when he schedule allows.
The family’s dairy was recently awarded a Top Quality Milk Award by the Dairy Farmers of America for the second year in a row.
Darrin notes that conservation practices are our responsibility to take care of our natural resources. That mindset might come from the first generation of Deters on this farm, who won an award in 1986. More than 30 years later, it’s a mindset that was definitely put into action to get a lot done in a very short time.
Matt and Barb Bachman – Buffer Award
The renovation of an existing buffer may have been the start of the physical side of his conservation efforts, but Matt Bachman has long had interest in conservation practices. Being the recipients of the 2017 Nemaha County Conservation District Buffer Award just brings a love of conservation “full circle” for Matt and Barb Bachman.
When designing conservation posters years ago, Matt didn’t know that one day he’d be a living example of conservation work. Influenced as well by walks with his father on hunting trips through land that included ditches in need of conservation attention, he got the idea of “preservation” in his head at an early age. Today, the work he and Barb have done to renovate and maintain their buffer strip has certainly continued to yield conservation benefits, even above and beyond what they may have first thought.
Around half of the Bachman property is delegated to conservation efforts. Cropped acreage on the farm is no-tilled to corn and soybeans. Eighteen acres is planted to native grasses and wildflowers. Both are conservation practices that complement the large buffer that runs alongside and between the cropped bottom ground and the Black Vermillion River.
They note that the buffer definitely gets put to the test from the river that tends to overflow and flood the bottom ground on their property from time to time. Serving its intended purpose, the buffer helps to minimize erosion while providing a living filter to clean water as it returns to the river. They believe as well that it has helped to prevent widening of the river by reducing erosion potential.
The buffer doesn’t do its job without some effort. Maintaining the buffer strip has required a lot of removal of unwanted trees that at one point prior to Matt taking over the property had begun to take over areas of the riparian planting. They continue to cut unwanted trees from the buffer strip and conduct regular prescribed burns to keep brush and weeds to a minimum while encouraging the native grasses and wildflowers planted in the strip.
Soil and water conservation aren’t the only conservation enhancements on the property. It has come with a side benefit of providing some great wildlife habitat as well.
In addition to their conservation efforts, Matt and Barb belong to the Centralia Community Church and Centralia Pride Program.