Get your land ‘buff’ and in shape

To get in shape, or “buff” as the slang term implies is to have good muscle tone, be physically fit, and trim. Well, I’m not talking about you and your body, what I’m talking about is your land and property.

Whether you own a half acre, five acres or hundreds of acres, your land is a reflection of you and how you care about it. Why not consider some improvements this year?

You can make your land fit and trim, and provide healthier water run-off by doing one simple improvement, called a filter strip, or buffer.

Benefits of a buffer

Buffers, sometimes referred to grass filter strips, are basically the same thing. The only difference is that grass filter strips are designed to perform a specific function, namely to filter surface water moving across it, and reduce or eliminate sediments and nutrients from entering and contaminating water bodies. Grassed filter strips are a TYPE of buffer.

Another popular term is a riparian buffer, which not only has grasses, but trees or shrubs that will also help filter and trap pollutants. The benefit is not only cleaner surface water runoff and a healthier stream, but also improved habitat for wildlife.

Buffers also make a safe and natural corridor for fish and wildlife, as well as helping stabilize stream banks or ditches.

Easy on the eyes

So, what can you do? As I drive around the countryside, I see many pastures and fields. It doesn’t matter if you have horses, sheep, cattle, llamas, goats, or any other livestock, you still have a pasture and it must border something.

Odds are it borders someone else’s property, a ditch or a stream. Well, make sure you have a buffer around your pasture. Do what you can, make it 20 feet, or better yet, even wider, but make a nice grassed strip between your pasture, paddock or field and your neighbor.

Limit mud and manure

Your pasture may become a mud lot with our wet weather, but you can ensure that the mud and manure run-off can be limited, at least reduced or filtered before it enters any waterway.

The same can be said with crop fields. I understand with high prices for crops, many farmers want to farm every inch of land they have. However, what good is your land if you constantly allow the precious topsoil to be washed away with the rain?

What kind of example are you setting and what type of land stewardship are you showing if you allow nutrients, sediments and excess pollutants to enter your water or your downstream neighbor’s water?

Doing the right thing may not always pay financially, but in the long run, it will pay by having piece of mind and living in a healthier place.

Grassed buffers are a much prettier sight than seeing muddy water flowing right from a field into a waterway.

So, whether you have a big operation or you have a small lot, make your property look better, and it will be better for the environment.

Help!

If you’re looking for some help getting your farm “buff”, there are some options for you.

The Farm Service Agency recently announced the sign-up period for the Conservation Reserve Program runs now through April 6. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term conservation covers to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and wildlife habitat.

This is an excellent program to sign up those fields that have erosion problems or are hard to farm due to odd shapes or steep slopes. There is no minimum acreage to apply. Applicants can choose to enroll one field, one tract, or the whole farm.

Landowners enrolled in the CRP program receive annual rental payments based on the soil type and cost-share assistance to establish a cover, which is typically a grass/legume mix and/or trees and shrubs.

Land that is not currently enrolled in CRP can be offered during signup if all eligibility requirements are met. CRP participants with contracts expiring this fall can make new contract offers during the signup period.

Contracts awarded become effective Oct. 1..

Also, look to your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for assistance.

For example, landowners in Chippewa Creek Watershed Subdistrict who live in Wayne and Medina counties have the opportunity to receive payments for the establishments of buffers along the main channel.

For more information contact Wayne SWCD at 330-262-2836 or Medina SWCD at 330-722-2628.

Get healthy

So, if your land and farm are already “buff” and healthy, keep up the good work! If not, it’s never too late to get started with a few simple ways to improve your land, and make your property healthy.

About the Author

Kelly Riley has been the Education Specialist for the Wayne Soil and Water Conservation District since 2003. She earned her B.A. Degree in Education from University of Akron and was previously a teacher with the Tri-County ESC. Kelly can be reached at (330)-262-2836 or by e-mail at kriley@wayneoh.org. More Stories by Kelly Riley

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