Spring Hill farmers earn conservation award

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 12/30/96.

Spring Hill Township dairy farmers Jim and Diane Boeckers were honored at the state convention of Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) on Dec. 10.

"This family has done a truly exceptional job of making conservation a priority," said Urban Spanier, chair of the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). "The main reason we nominated them is because of their total commitment to erosion control and water quality improvement on their farm."

Jimâs experience with erosion control goes back to when he was a boy roaming the flat country along the Sauk River.

"When I was a kid, I remember seeing a lot of dust blowing off farmer's fields," he said. The Boeckers weren't about to see the same thing happen on their farm. Within a year after they began farming their sandy 263-acre Sauk River terrace land, they were leaving crop residues on the surface to protect the soil.
They're not alone with their management system.

"I bet now, if you were to look up and down the river, you'd see nine out of ten farmers doing some chisel plowing (reduced tillage)," Jim said. "You just don't see the dust in the air like we did anymore."

Water erosion threatened the productivity of the land. The Boeckers needed to clean sediment from drainage ditches yearly, because gully erosion filled the ditches. Jim and Diane contacted the SWCD and, with help from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), designed a diversion structure to stop the erosion. The following year, Jim and Diane again called on the SWCD and the NRCS when gullies of up to four feet were causing problems on another farm. This time, the solution lay in shaping a shallow waterway cross section and planting soil-protecting farm grass.

"We don't have washouts on our farm anymore," Jim said.

After controlling the wind and water erosion, the Boeckers decided that stopping feedlot manure runoff would be their next project.

"We used to see a brown stream of water every spring leaving the feedlot and heading for the river," Jim said.

In 1993, Jim and Diane built a concrete stacking area for the solid manure and an earthen storage pond to intercept all the runoff from the stacking slab to a nearby feedlot. Technical help for the project came from the SWCD and NRCS offices. Financial assistance was provided by the Stearns County USDA Farm Service Office.

The Boeckers liked the idea of storing the liquid and solid manure until it could be worked into the soil, soon after application. This eliminated winter spreading and spring runoff. Most of the manure's nutrients are lost with winter application, Jim said. In the spring, he couldn't tell where he spread manure. The Boeckers get more benefit from their manure and save effort without the necessity of winter application.

All SWCD and USDA programs are available without regard to race, color, nationality, religion, sex, age, marital status or handicap.

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