Sustainability is more than just a buzz word in Wisconsin agriculture. With pressure on farmers coming from the non farm public and government agencies to increase their efforts, many farmers are taking time to learn more about practices meant to improve soil health and water quality that they can utilize on their acres.
Recently farmers, agriculture professionals and local legislatures came together to share knowledge and learn more about different farm practices to increase sustainability at an event hosted by Insight FS, Growmark, Jefferson County Farm Bureau and Sustainable 4R Wisconsin. The event, held at Tag Lane Dairy in Ixonia, WI, featured four different stations tackling topics ranging from diverse cover crops, to precision nutrient application.
Kirby Wagner, Government Relations Associate Manager with Growmark shared more about the Sustainable 4R Wisconsin initiative. Formed between Insight FS, Growmark and Wi Farm Bureau, Sustainable 4R Wisconsin is a yearly event that highlights sustainability practices on farm. Each event works with the local county farm bureau as well as the county and municipality boards, bring together farmers and local leadership to discuss soil health and sustainability goals.
According to Brendan Blank, Forage Specialist with Byron Seeds, there are now over 40 local watershed and county groups led by Wisconsin farmers. These groups not only provide educational opportunities for local farmers, they also are building bridges with those outside of agriculture.
“There’s been a really neat partnership formed with these lake groups and with lake property owners where the farmers have been able to go to them and say, here’s what we’re doing to reduce runoff and make the water that’s running off our farms cleaner and these lake owners say ‘Well, that’s really good. We want to encourage that. We want to help encourage that education process, and even contribute some money to helping pay for some of these cover crops that are going out. Some of these acres’, The neat thing about a lot of this stuff is their practices that our profitable for the farmers and they’re beneficial to the rest of the public as well.”
Scott Schultz, Jefferson County farmer and member of the Jefferson County Soil Builders group, says that their group has secured funding through the county’s land and water department and through grants from local lake improvement groups to provide incentives to farmers in Jefferson County to try cover crops. This year they are encouraging further crop diversification by having added incentives for farmers to plant multi-species cover crops.
The event host farm, Tag Lane Dairy is owned by the Griswold family and is a 1,700 cow and 2,200 acre farm that has been in operation since 1967. As part of the event Kevin Griswold shared his perspective on the future of their family’s farm and how the soil health practices they have adopted will help to meet the needs of their land as well as aligning with the greater goals of increased sustainability in the agriculture industry.