Farmer Report – Work Smarter, Not Harder

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!

Are You Smarter than a 1st Grader?

Soil testing is a valuable way for farmers, gardeners, and those with lawns to know what nutrients are already available in their soil, as well as what nutrients should be added. Not knowing what is already available in your soil, makes it easy to over-apply or under-apply fertilizers. Over application can cause negative impacts on water quality if runoff transfers the excess nutrients to waterways. Having too few nutrients in your soil can impede plant growth.

No matter what you’re growing, getting a soil test is important!

On Friday, May 14th, the Allen County SWCD and Purdue Extension partnered to teach soil testing to the first grade students at Washington Elementary School in downtown Fort Wayne. The students did an excellent job listening!

James Wolff from Purdue Extension and Joelle Neff & Ben Taylor from the Allen County SWCD demonstrating soil testing and soil textures to the 1st grad class at Washington Elementary School.

The class learned the importance of getting a soil test. Their faces lit up as they answered questions about how we can protect our water systems by keeping excess nutrients out of them. Excitement filled the school grounds as teachers, students and agency staff chose different locations to collect soil samples from. Each student was able to pick a spot from which to collect a sample.

Soil testing in groups around Washington Elementary School’s property.

The first graders not only learned about soil testing, but they also learned about the different textures of soil. The students got to feel examples of sand, silt, and clay, as well as play a game that taught them the different properties of these textures. Sand is the largest particle with lots of surface area. It feels course when rubbed between your fingers. It allows for good drainage and doesn’t hold water or nutrients very well. Silt is the medium-sized particle. It feels smooth like baking flour when wet. It doesn’t stick together, so it still has good drainage, but it is small enough to hold water and nutrients. Clay is the smallest soil texture. It sticks together when wet giving it a sticky texture. Much of the soil in Northeast Indiana has a heavy clay content. Clay does not drain water easily, sometimes remaining waterlogged and causing root rot in plants. On the other hand, clay soils are excellent at holding nutrients.

If you knew all this, congrats! You are smarter than a first grader, but don’t stop there! Keep learning about Conservation Practices like soil testing.

This demonstration was sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through our Urban and Small Farms Program. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

2020 River Boat Tours Prove to Be Successful

This fall, the Allen County SWCD and the Maumee Watershed Alliance had numerous opportunities to give tours of Fort Wayne’s three rivers – the St. Mary’s, the St. Joseph’s, and the Maumee. These tours were designed to educate both farmers and urbanites on the importance of water quality and the part everyone plays in maintaining and improving the water quality around Allen County. Greg Lake, the Allen Co. SWCD Director, and Dan Wire, an Associate SWCD Board Member and Maumee Watershed Alliance Member, expressed how important it is to get people on the water. According to Dan Wire, “When people get on the river, they realize it’s not as bad as they thought.” Riding the river also gives an understanding of the programs already in place to improve and maintain water quality and the opportunities to get involved.

The Allen County SWCD even had the chance to give a tour to both Tom Bechman, the editor for the Indiana Prairie Farmer, and Jerry Raynor, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist. Dan Wire and Greg Lake shared about the programs that improve water quality locally, and Jerry Raynor spoke about what is happening statewide in the promotion of conservation. Tom Bechman wrote several stories about his trip to Allen County and published them in the October 2020 issue of the Indiana Prairie Farmer. Now the message of water quality is being spread across Indiana.

Take a look at these articles written by Tom Bechman from his visit to Allen County!

https://www.farmprogress.com/conservation/ag-urban-groups-both-need-clean-water

https://www.farmprogress.com/conservation/what-water-monitoring-project-reveals-about-water-quality

https://www.farmprogress.com/conservation/science-behind-stream-monitoring-water-quality

https://www.farmprogress.com/commentary/huntington-university-turns-out-quality-ag-graduates

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