Whiskey Sparks Clean Water Conversations

Good whiskey — it wouldn’t be around without clean water and quality corn.

That’s why the J. Henry & Sons bourbon tasting room was the meeting place for corn growers and water advocacy groups earlier this month.

“Water quality is a big priority for farmers,” explains Wisconsin Corn Growers Association President Mark Hoffmann. “We know many other groups have prioritized clean water and are working on programs to improve water quality, so we wanted to create an opportunity for conversations that build relationships with those who are also taking action.”

Leaders from the WCGA, Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, and many of the state’s water and environmental advocacy and conservation groups were at the event in Dane on Sept. 8. Farmers shared how technology and innovation allow them to be more precise with fertilizer applications, reduce runoff and keep nutrients in the soil.

Dane County farmer Ryan Ripp shared how he uses cover crops – crops that typically grow over winter and for him have the dual purpose of providing feed for livestock and adding organic matter to build healthy soils that retain more water. Cover crops and similar clean-water farming practices have become increasingly important as we experience more severe weather events with larger rainfall amounts. Healthy soils keep water in the fields instead of running off into waterways, taking precious topsoil with it.

“Wisconsin is unique in many ways in that we’re blessed with abundant water resources that we enjoy in our everyday lives, from swimming and boating to the clean water we drink,” Hoffman adds. “It’s no surprise that great-tasting bourbon is tied to clean water, a connection we celebrated at this event.

Wisconsin corn leaders say they look forward to ongoing conversations and partnerships that raise awareness of water quality issues and solutions that work for everyone.