Local Farmers Make A Difference Through Conservation

Local farmer members of the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance gathered earlier this month to celebrate the continual conservation improvements they are seeing on their farms. They also learned from leading researchers about innovations on the horizon.

Shawn Wesener, Farmers for Sustainable Food data collection specialist, reported on LASA’s 2023 Member Conservation Practice Survey results. The 2023 results built on the previous five years’ worth of data, showed that all of the participating members are completing the annual survey. This allows the group to closely monitor the impact the continual changes they are making. Most notable is that 7,000 more acres are now under cover crops to improve soil health and prevent erosion since 2018. Additionally, 57 percent of the farms now use no-till or minimum-tillage practices.

“Through our annual farmer surveys and data collection, we are seeing the adoption of practices like cover crops and reduced tillage is making a difference for overall soil health, water quality and nutrient absorption,” says Wesener.

LASA member Jim DiGangi and Andy Dvoracek from Amp America shared their recent collaboration between Darlington Ridge Farms and Amp America. They installed a manure digester to generate natural gas and decrease carbon emissions. When operational, the digester can generate additional revenue for the farm while reducing environmental impacts.

Dr. Dennis Busch and Kishan Mahmud of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville shared updates on key conservation research projects underway. These include a Natural Resources Conservation Service rainfall simulation project evaluating soil loss on conventional farms using plots compared to the use of cover crops or green planting.

Alicia Bryan from Nutrien Ag Solutions reiterated the importance of soil biology and soil biome health in farm fields.

“Soil biology acts as the immune system for plants, helping it in times of stress,” Bryan said. “During a drought, for example, a plant will rely on soil biology to help it get through the stressful time period. Just as humans rely on a strong immune system to fight off diseases.”

The day concluded with the group’s business meeting and board member elections. Mike Berget, Jim DiGangi, and Ken Norgard were re-elected to serve another term on the board.

Other board members are President Jim Winn, Cottonwood Dairy, Vice President Steve Carpenter, Redrock View Farms, Secretary Jean Stauffacher, Highway Dairy Farms, Brian Schilling, Schilling Farms, Ryan Temperly, Nutrien Ag Solutions and Jason Rowe. Steve Fleming, Investors Community Bank and Dennis Busch, the University of Wisconsin Platteville serve as board advisors.

“We are encouraged to have so many people attend our meeting,” LASA President Jim Winn said. “Our group continues to support farmers in implementing new sustainable practices. It’s great to see our community taking an interest in our work.”

Farmers interested in participating in the LASA group can find more information on their website.