Where there’s a farm question, there’s a conservation answer

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Cover crops
(Cover crops)

Questions, questions, questions. That is all I could think when I started this position last year. I quickly learned that I was not alone.

Eventually, I learned that I did not have to know all of the answers (luckily). I just needed to know how to find them.

I discovered the endless supply of conservation resources available, workshops to attend, and a large variety of conservation minded producers willing to share their knowledge.

As I began working with our local producers, I discovered that everyone has questions. Google Earth and Web Soil Survey have become my go-to resources when beginning a project.

Soil maps

There is a lot to be learned from a soil map and report. Did you know that soil type, local streams, and topography layers are available add-ins to Google Earth?

Web Soil Survey offers free soil reports such as a basic area inventory, drainage class, and expected yield potential for each soil type.

Old aerial photos can also teach us important details about a farm’s history. The changes in buildings, field patterns, and developments can be tracked by looking at different years’ photos.

Our office stores county aerial prints dating back to 1934, and we offer a digital version too. In addition, Google Earth has an option with imagery dating back to 1994.

Farm publications

Current articles from Ohio’s many agricultural newspapers and magazines are great for learning about successful best management practices.

Farm and Dairy, Ohio Farmer, and Ohio’s Country Journal are great to subscribe to for up to date information that is delivered regularly to your door.

If you are more visual, YouTube has videos about every topic you can imagine: soil health, cover crops, soil testing and more. I recommend checking out the NRCS Soil Health Video Series.

Attend a workshop

While knowing what resources are available is valuable, so is experiencing them yourself. Stark Soil and Water Conservation District provides many hands-on workshops that are hosted by local producers.

These workshops focus on a variety of key topics utilized in their operation including tree I.D., nutrient management, grazing and more. Stark SWCD is a partner within a multi-county collaboration that puts together the Eastern Ohio Grazing Council Pasture Walks, and the Crop Production Partnership field days.

These groups provide many opportunities to learn about grazing, pasture condition, water options, soil health, cover crops, crop rotation, building organic matter and erosion prevention.

Meet and learn

Field days provide opportunities to meet and learn from others. They share their challenges, failures, and successes. The information shared can help develop future operation plans.

If you have not been able to attend a local SWCD event, I strongly encourage you to find a topic that interests you and attend to learn more.

As a local SWCD, we appreciate our producers’ feedback and involvement. Our producers know what works.

In planning workshops, I have found the most success in asking local farmers to speak. We are working to provide opportunities for our producers to learn from each other.

Word of mouth

Sometimes, a casual discussion provides more useful information than a formal presentation. While it is important, as an SWCD employee, to promote best management practices, a farmer who has had success in implementing these practices will leave a greater impact on listeners.

One of the best parts about this job is the continuous learning. Your local Soil and Water Conservation District is able to provide and connect you with resources to fit your needs.

If we aren’t learning then we aren’t growing and improving. I still do not have all of the answers, but now I know where to find them! As quoted from Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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Sarah Kapper is a Stark SWCD agriculture district technician. You can reach her at sarah.kapper@starkswcd.org, or call 330-268-9105.

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