Why conservation?

Excerpt of Phil Hein’s history of Maple Ridge Dairy from a Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Agricultural Community Engagement On-the-Farm twilight meeting.

I took a keen interest in soil conservation. We established our first conservation practices in the 1950s. … Dad and I recognized the need and the value of establishing waterways and terraces. We not only wanted to keep our soil on our land but we also wanted to keep the soil out of the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir. To me, our topsoil is a very valuable asset. That reservoir is as valuable to this area of Wisconsin as a trout stream is in other parts of the state.

In 1968, I established terraces and waterways on the entirety of 120 acres of [newly purchased] land. Because of our type of subsoil we have to rely on surface drainage to get rid of the surplus water. The terraces that we designed intercepted the water starting from the top of the field and walking it off into a road ditch or waterways at about 200ft intervals.,

It cost me $50 an acre for all of that conservation work plus the addition of lime necessary to bring the soil PH ratio up to seven. That made it possible for us to grow alfalfa, as well as corn for corn silage, which is the lifeblood of our dairy farm operation’s supply of cattle feed.

So tonight, to our guests and our legislators in attendance, this is my story:

My story is built around those 120 acres on which we established those conservation practices in 1968 and which still are in practice today. They were established by a team of men working for the United States Department of Agriculture, Conservation division. Because of these terraces and waterways, I am very passionate about maintaining our conservation programs on our farm. It has served our purpose very well.

I am reading about the challenges that the villages of Edgar and Stratford and Fenwood and Marathon are having in trying to get their phosphorus levels in water in line with federal regulations. They need to remove 700 pounds of phosphorus. At a cost of millions of dollars.
Do you realize how much 700 pounds of phosphorous is? That’s seven partially filled gunny bags of phosphorous. My argument is this, that if we keep the soil on the land, we keep the phosphorus out of the water.

To you, regulators, we need your help. We need to invite you to our farms and to our fields. We need you to see what we are doing and why we here at Maple Ridge Dairy are trying to do what we do to preserve our soil and keep it out of the water.

We producers need much help from you regulators, in influencing the writing of the rules and regulations. And we need to help you to understand that rules and regulations and laws don’t solve the problem. It is the understanding of what we need to do to get to the bottom of OUR problem.

This article originally appeared in the latest UW Discovery Farms newsletter. If you would like to read more from the newsletter please click here.

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