Mike Werling is a fourth generation farmer in Decatur, Indiana. Farming is his lifestyle. He started with his father and now its in his blood. Mike started on his journey of soil health and conservation farming because he hated seeing erosion on his fields.
As a part time employee with the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Mike has learned that it’s hard for people to change their attitudes, and this lends to challenges in educating other farmers to adopt conservation practices. This does not altar Werling’s determination, though.
Some practices Mike incorporates are cover crops, no-till, grass waterways, water and sediment control basins, buffer strips around his upland areas, and drainage water management.
Werling’s motivation is to leave his soil better than how he found it. Enjoy the full interview with Mike Werling!
In the interview below, Marissa Renz, the founder of Plant Happiness LLC, shares about her journey in developing her 4,000 sq. ft. market garden. Marissa married her love of native plants to her gardening business, and the result has been phenomenal! Not only does she provide food for her family, customers, and beneficial wildlife, but she also educates others on incorporating conservation practices in their growing spaces. Plant Happiness LLC continues to make a positive impact on the environment and the Fort Wayne community.
The market garden grows dozens of plant varieties including vegetables, fruits, leafy greens, and native plants that provide habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects. Crops are grown using sustainable practices such as cover cropping, composting, integrated pest management, and companion planting.
Marissa’s garden shows that no matter what size your lot, garden, or farm is, you can make a big difference on the environment around you. Adding native plants to your landscaping or garden can increase water infiltration into the soil and can provide habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators. Keeping your soil covered with biodiverse plants, mulch, or cover crops keeps soil intact and can build organic matter.
Learn from gardeners like Marissa about how to make a big impact in your community and in your home!
On April 13th, 2021, Derek Thompson, a local farmer and NRCS District Conservationist, shared his experience with no-till farming at Live from Avilla. This live, virtual event was designed to demonstrate the equipment modification necessary for a no-till operation. By taking a close-up look at Thompson’s planter, all thirteen participants learned what to pay attention to and what adjustments are necessary in this kind of system.
Thompson gave great advise for farmers who have not done much no-till but are interested in trying it. He suggested starting small. Throwing all your eggs in one basket may lead to frustration and disappointment. Asking lots of question to those around you that have no-till experience can help you avoid certain mistakes and can give you more opportunity for success.
Live from Avilla was sponsored by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Urban and Small Farms Program. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
The Allen County SWCD along with the Southwest Conservation Club (SWCC), Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Indiana DNR, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service partnered for a prescribed burn workshop. This workshop informed attendees about wildlife habitat and the various ways to manage it. It also gave a basis on who to contact, what permits are necessary, what to do in an urban situation, and what equipment is necessary to perform a prescribed burn.
Due to the inclement weather, we were unable to do a live demonstration of the burn, but attendees were still able to go outside and learn techniques and dive into the equipment. Both Jessica Merkling with InDNR and Ryan Owen with Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and the NRCS, did an amazing job presenting and gave great insight into performing a burn.
The SWCC Prescribed Burn Workshop was the first hybrid event that the Allen County SWCD had ever done, meaning it was both in person and virtual. We learned a lot through this event, and we’re looking forward to improve ourselves in both virtual and in-person events.
Below is the recording of this workshop. If you’re interested in doing a burn on your property, this is a great place to start!
An update on the SWCD and USGS partnership: Edge of Field Project. This project collaborates with local farmers to collect water samples for an estimate five years to measure nutrients, sediment, and other critical elements for USGS research.
In January 2021, the SWCD staff were trained how to collect samples and send the collection and other information to USGS. Information is collected and sent after significant rain/snow fall events when water has entered the systems.
The systems are built on the land of cooperating landowners and farmers, at no cost to the farmer. USGS incurs all of the installation costs and other necessary elements. USGS is always looking for new sites to host these Edge of Field sites. Contact our office if you would like more information about this project.