Hope for the future brought more than 130 farmers, community members and agribusiness professionals together recently to discuss results from the latest research conducted on participating farms and how urban and rural citizens are impacting the Yahara watershed.
Future goals and aspirations formed the core of the Yahara Pride Farms Watershed-wide Conference on March 7 in DeForest. Yahara Pride Farms (YPF) is a farmer-led non-profit organization working to improve soil and water quality. The group strives to help advance new ideas and technology that balance water quality improvement with farm sustainability and profitability.
“We’re going to look into the future today,” said Bob Uphoff, a hog farmer from Madison and vice-chairman of Yahara Pride Farms. “Why? We’re farmers. We have to. We put that seed in the ground and hope we harvest a crop. We breed that cow or that sow and we hope we get something back.”
Uphoff expressed pride for farmers statewide who are working to improve water quality and the environment despite having another tough financial and weather year on their farms. He acknowledged the necessity of YPF being able to adapt to various economic climates in order to best work with participating farmers.
“As I look at the farmers, not only here in the Yahara watershed, but all the farmers that are involved in the other watershed projects across the state of Wisconsin, I look at those folks as the ones who are really the positive people,” Uphoff said. “They’re the ones that are trying to get things done; they’re taking a look at the problems within their unique area and they’re trying to address them, and that, folks, is why we started Yahara Pride in 2012.”
Chris Lenzendorf, president of AQUA Innovations, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer of nutrient concentration systems, provided a brief overview of how his company handles manure. AQUA Innovation’s primary goals include separating manure using heat instead of chemicals, maintaining minimum touch time for dairy operators and remaining economically viable. Another goal is to keep their equipment designs scalable so that a wide variety of farm sizes can use the technology.
Dennis Frame, resource manager for YPF and owner of Timber Ridge Consulting, presented several farming system scenarios where a variety of conservation practices are being implemented. Frame shared insight into the expected nutrient reductions that farmers can expect with each scenario. He also encouraged farmers to minimize soil loss, incorporate nutrients into the soil, assess good timing on planting and harvesting, and use proper seeding rates and placement.
“We’d like farmers to be innovative and creative and to lead themselves,” Frame said.
Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District Director of Ecosystem Services Martye Griffin and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi gave short partner updates during lunch.
“If we can find market-based solutions, protect the environment and prevent phosphorus runoff, we have a win-win situation,” Griffin said.
Yahara Pride Farms Conservation Planner Pat Murphy shared his observations and the benefits of winter composting. He said site selection is critical for easy access so farmers don’t forget to turn the stack regularly, a critical best management practice when composting.
Frame worked with Jeff Endres, chairman of Yahara Pride Farms, to present information on current and upcoming water quality protection programs for YPF. Endres said 75 percent of Wisconsin’s growth is in Dane County, and he hopes YPF will continue to search for environmental stewardship solutions that balance the area’s rich agriculture heritage with an ever-growing population.
“We have to interact with nature,” he said. “We really only have one water.”