Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Front Row Seat to Agricultural Production in Indiana




By Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson, Resource Specialist Team Leader, works from the Clark County office and services several Southeastern counties.  Mike has been with the Division of Soil Conservation for nearly 24 years.  He raises grain, hay and beef cattle on 350 acres in Clark county.

 As we are in the middle of high school, college and professional basketball; NFL playoff games; and later on this summer the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, everyone hopes to get the best seat possible and maybe even FRONT ROW SEATS.  I have a front row seat to some pretty amazing events myself through Indiana agricultural production.


Windrow to Bale



Watching this little guy grow from birth to yearling

                                                                

Watching this frost bitten seedling mature to 200 bushel corn



video



Getting Conservation Closer to Ground Level

Despite some doubting minds (mine included) spring has finally sprung and that means more to some of us than just the blooming flowers, singing birds, sunshine and blue skies.  To the educators of our area it means the school kids are finally able to venture out of the classroom on some much anticipated field trips.  Pulaski County Soil and Water Conservation District was lucky enough to be invited to design multiple education programs throughout the year.  But nothing beats being able to expose young hearts and minds to the wonder of our surrounding natural resources.  This spring allowed us to participate in 3 major outdoor learning programs. 

The first was a 4th grade field trip to the Tippecanoe River State Park.  A quick survey revealed only about 15% of the 125 children had ever visited this gem of a park a mere 5 miles from their school.  Even on a less than spring like day (40 degrees was our high with a constant drizzle) the kids’ enthusiasm and excitement at being in a new and interesting place was infectious. 

Each class visited 6 stations consisting of Forestry taught by District Forester James Pothoff; Erosion and Bank Stabilization taught by Purdue Extension’s Natalie Daily and Chad Rushing; Park History taught by Pulaski County SWCD’s Barb Rausch and yours truly; Mussels, Macros and Otters with Pulaski County SWCD Educator Kathy Wyatt; and finally, the overwhelming favorite of all the students, Community Service led by ISDA’s Julie Morris and Deb Jimison.    The kids even participated in a word scramble over their lunch break to solve the clue “Preserve. Guard. Protect.”.  After finding all 12 letters hidden around the park students successfully spelled “Conservation”! 

Barb Rausch retells the Potawatomie Tribes story of why the Tippecanoe River is so curvy.  (The fur hat on her head is for more than just effect, it was cold!!) 



Kathy Wyatt braved the rain to show the kids how important otters, macros and mussels are to indicating the health of local waterways.
Deb Jimison and Julie Morris were so proud of the hard work done by little hands.  Each 4th grade class learned how to identify and remove invasive species from the park.  The brush pile pictured is one of many containing autumn olive, garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle. The kids had to be practically dragged away from their workstations to move on to other sessions!  But what 9 year old doesn’t love going to work with hand saws and giant pruners? 


A few days later, and thankfully about 30 degrees warmer, found us at the Rausch Family’s National Wetland with 120 2nd graders. The almost 40 acres of wetland and forest provided the perfect outdoor experience for these young minds to learn about animal tracking, furs, birds, forestry, macros, and measurements.  Each class brought with them a large water filled jar that had been the home of the class tadpoles for a few weeks.  The tadpoles were released into the wetlands and were cheered on by the young stewards as they ventured into their new homes.

Taking Measurements with Mrs. Wyatt and 
Ms. Jimison






Animal Tracks & Scat with Mr. Rausch, Forestry with James and Birds of the Wetlands with Julie Morris

And, of course, what would a field trip be without a fun lunchtime game of “Turtle, Turtle, Otter”?  For those who don’t know, that is the twist us SWCD folks put on the traditional “Duck, Duck, Goose”. I mean, who doesn’t love saying, “Turtle, turtle, turtle, turtle, turtle, OTTER!”?  (Although, for some reason, I can never get anyone in the office to chase me; no matter how many times I tap the top of their head and say “You’re the otter!!” They really aren’t amused when I run around and try to sit in their seat, especially since they typically never got up to chase me.)



Thankfully the beautiful weather held out for yet another field day, this one organized by Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Jody Wilson and located on the beautiful grounds of the Kankakee Marsh County Park in Lake County.  Jody teamed up with Rensselaer Schools 8th graders, bringing them out to learn about this long gone marsh from visiting speakers Rose Morgan (Newton County SWCD), James Pothoff (DNR), Sarah Wolf (ISDA), and myself! Jody was even able to recruit Jeff Manes and Jim Sweeney local history experts, as well as, writer and contributor to the documentary “Everglades of the North”. 

I was given the opportunity to teach these young adults about animals both currently living in and extinct from the grand marsh.  Many had never even seen some of the animals we had pelts for.  The students even played along (with minimal groaning and eye rolling) in a game to exemplify the importance of using our natural resources wisely. 

None of the students believed beaver pelts were used as currency for early settlers.
Buying groceries with beaver pelts? Crazy!

Every day we come in to the office with a mission, get conservation on the ground.  So we focus on our agricultural producers, promoting cover crops, advising on responsible irrigation, encouraging conservation program sign up, water testing, and the list goes on.  We can’t forget an important part of that mission is our young people.  They may not currently be active stewards of the land but if we are lucky more than a few of the 400+ students we exposed to the beauty and value of our natural resources this past week will grow up to care as much for this land as we do.  And even at their young age they can pass on our message to friends and family.  After all, it is much easier to get conservation on the ground while you are still as close to ground level as these small folks are.


Written By: Ashley Brucker, Pulaski County Soil and Water Conservation District

Thursday, January 2, 2014

ISDA Announces Meg Leader as Program Manager for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs

INDIANAPOLIS – ISDA Director Gina Sheet is pleased to announce that Meg Leader is joining the department as Program Manager for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs.

Prior to joining ISDA, Leader served as the conservation director of the Vermillion County Soil and Water Conservation District.  A civil engineer by training, Leader is a graduate of Syracuse University.  She has worked on conservation projects throughout California and the East Coast, including wetland replication in New England and storm-water runoff design in Los Angeles County.

“The Division of Soil Conservation is pleased to welcome Meg Leader as our agriculture and environmental affairs program manager,” DSC Director Jordan Seger said.  “Her extensive knowledge of conservation efforts throughout the United States, and experience with Indiana’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts, will serve our program participants well.”

ISDA believes that conservation of soil is crucial to the continued viability of agriculture.  ISDA’s Division of Soil Conservation personally works with land owners and farmers throughout the state, offering voluntary conservation programs aimed at establishing best management practices and benefitting bottom-lines.

Leader, originally from a farm in upstate New York, currently resides in Terre Haute with her husband.

About ISDA
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) was established as separate state agency by the Legislature in 2005.  The Director is appointed by the Governor and is a member of the Governor’s Cabinet.  Administratively, ISDA reports to Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, who also serves as Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture.  Major responsibilities include advocacy for Indiana agriculture at the local, state and federal level, managing soil conservation programs, promoting economic development and agricultural innovation, serving as a regulatory ombudsman for agricultural businesses, and licensing grain firms throughout the state.


Media Contact:
Ben Kenney
Indiana State Department of Agriculture
bkenney@isda.in.gov
317-690-3303


Monday, December 30, 2013

By Bill Bollman

Veteran no-tillers are increasingly interested in cover crops as a means to continue improving their soil’s health. The management mindset is no longer sustainability of what may well be a degraded resource, but one of improving and restoring that soil resource. The benefits to establishing a cover crop are many and include: erosion control, reduces nitrate and phosphorus losses, increases soil organic matter, increases biodiversity, weed suppression, soil moisture management, minimizes soil compaction and promotes biological nitrogen fixation.



 The economical and environmental benefits have farmers brainstorming on how to integrate cover crops into their production systems. The best method to accomplish cover crop seeding may vary between operations due to differences in geography and crop mixes involved, as well as differences in the labor and machinery available.

Here are some of the different methods utilized to establish cover crops:

Air Delivery Seeder behind Vertical Tillage Tool

Air Delivery Seeder mounted on Grain Header 
Rotary Harrow behind Broadcast Application

Seeding with No-Till Drill

Aerial Application into standing crop
For technical assistance in your area, please visit: http://www.in.gov/isda/2367.htm 

For more information on cover crops, please visit: http://ccsin.iaswcd.org/

Monday, December 23, 2013

Working to Protect our Resources

George Reger                     
Resource Specialist  - Team Leader
Job Duties: surveying, engineering, design and layout projects. I also work with the local districts with conservation projects.
Areas of Interest/Expertise: Working the public and delivering a conservation message to them.
Background:  I was raised on small farm in Boone Co. I was a 10 year member in 4-H, main projects were swine and beef.








On August 29, Jessica Norcross and I show the stream bank erosion table to the 4th graders from the Montgomery schools. The demonstration show the student that  without protecting our soils with cover crops and reduce tillage the damage can be costly. 


The Montgomery SWCD coordinate this field day and it was held the Cain’s farm.


Our goals at the end of a grass waterway that there will cleaner water. And looking upstream we can see the effect s of soil health taking place. At the end of day we should look back and be thankful for our resources. And hope tomorrow will be as colorful as rainbow.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Funds Available for Livestock Promotion

ISDA – Office of Communications

Ben Kenney                                                 Abigail Maurer
Director of Communications                      Assistant Director of Communications
Tel.: 317-690-3303                                       Tel.: 317-605-6960
E-mail: bkenney@isda.in.gov                   E-mail: amaurer@isda.in.gov

Dec. 19, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Funds Available for Livestock Promotion

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana State Department of Agriculture is offering three grants to champion Indiana’s livestock industry. The Indiana Livestock Promotion Grant, Indiana Livestock Market Development Grant, and the 4-H/ FFA Youth Livestock Grant. The deadline for all livestock grants is Feb. 1, 2014.

The 4-H/ FFA Youth Livestock Grant is an opportunity for 4-H or FFA chapters to “pay it forward.” Students can use the funds to help fellow students purchase breeding stock to start a livestock operation or to add animals to an existing operation.

The Indiana Livestock Promotion Grant is for qualifying organizations to submit project proposals designed to promote the livestock industry in Indiana through shows, sales, exhibitions, conventions, or similar events and programs.

The Indiana Livestock Marketing Development Grant is for qualifying organizations to submit project proposals for value added feasibility studies, research projects, market development, or other projects that encourage the development of business and industry related to livestock production, processing and distribution.


The deadline for grant applications is Feb. 1, 2014. For more information, please visit ISDA’s website.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Think Twice Before You Spray That Ditch


By Don Ryan, Resource Specialist
Don Ryan is a Resource Specialist with the ISDA Division of Soil Conservation in Southwest Indiana, stationed in Daviess County.  Don was raised on a small diverse livestock and crop farm.  He started his conservation career in Daviess County as a district technician and has been with the State for 26 years.



Several years ago, I was asked to look at a ditch with a producer.  This ditch was behind her house and just outside her horse pasture.  When I arrived, it was completely bare.  It had no vegetation, and the erosion was bad.    She had sprayed it earlier because she didn't like the tall grass and weeds growing out her back door.  She stated that it had really gotten out of hand, so she unknowingly traded in weeds and grass for a nasty looking brown and exposed soil ditch by eliminating the vegetation.  

Now, several years later, that ditch is mostly weeds and looks worse now than it did before it was sprayed.  Fortunately, some grass is coming back.

There is a time and a place for everything.  There are times when noxious weeds need to be removed and the most effective way to take care of them is spraying.  If broad leaf weeds are the major concern, maybe a chemical specifically for those weeds could be used.  Another option for weed control in ditches could be a systematic approach of spraying and reseeding, that might take a couple of years, so as to not have complete exposure at once.

An effective way to maintain a ditch is mowing and the good ol' weed eater on those steep banks.  This is not always the most fun way to take care of things, but it is very effective.  Just keep in mind that you don’t want to cut the grass too short.  The best way to protect that ditch from erosion is a good stand of grass with strong roots.

One last thing to keep in mind!  You are using a chemical in an open and flowing water course.  Please follow label directions for best results and safety.