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Tainter Creek Watershed Council discusses events, well testing, cover crops and grazing
Gabe Brown flyer
THE TAINTER CREEK WATERSHED COUNCIL will hold a ‘Turn Your Farm Around with Gabe Brown’ soil health and water quality education event on Friday, October 4.

VERNON AND CRAWFORD COUNTIES - The Tainter Creek Watershed Council met at the Franklin Town Hall in Liberty Pole on Thursday, Sept. 19. The almost 20 farmers present discussed the upcoming soil health and water quality education event, distribution of cover crops funds, well water testing, and the three-year grazing study planned for the watershed.

The group’s next meeting will take place on Thursday, Nov. 7, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center, Highway 131, Gays Mills.

The ‘Turn Your Farm Around with Gabe Brown’ soil health and water quality education event will take place on Friday, Oct. 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the farm of Brian and Lori McCulloh, Woodhill Farms, S7589 Tainter Hollow Road, in rural Viroqua. Local grazing consultant Jim Muensch will also be part of the education program.

The workshop will cover:

• practical ways to profit;

• sensible farm management;

• land use change that makes money;

• cover crops for livestock benefits;

• options for the crop farmer’s future;

• applying real strategies on your farm;

• transitioning high erodible land to grazing systems;

• economics of improving your soil.

Tickets to the event are $10, and lunch catered by the Rockton Bar is included. Advance registration is required – to register, contact Sarah McDowell at Vernon County Land Conservation Department (LCD),, 608-637-5480.

Co-sponsors of the event include Woodhill Farms, USDA-NRCS, Valley Stewardship Network, and Wallace Center Pasture Project.

“Gabe Brown is an inspiring example of a producer who has integrated animal agriculture with crop agriculture,” Jim Muensch said. “In the process of doing so, he has driven down his costs for both.”

Cover crop funds

Berent Froiland reported that the 2019 DATCP grant application had included both increased funds and increased acres for cover crop or ‘alternative crop’ installations in the watershed. He clarified that the alternative crops can be “any crop that helps protect water quality in Tainter Creek.”

The funds will go toward installation on 600 acres at $25 per acre. Producers should sign up ASAP by contacting Sarah McDowell at Vernon County LCD,, 608-637-5480. Once the crop installation is complete, then producers will need to submit documentation to the LCD to be reimbursed. Those receiving the funds will need to be prepared to discuss with the council the successes and challenges they experienced in May or June of 2020.

Well water testing

The group once again plans to conduct a well water testing initiative in the watershed. The samples will be collected on Thursday, Nov. 7. Volunteers will once again drive the samples to the lab in Stevens Point that same day, using a vehicle loaned by Sleepy Hollow Motors.

The sampling will feature both the Homeowners and Metals testing packages - a $107 price and the well owner pays $25. To sign up, contact Sarah McDowell at Vernon County LCD at 608-637-5480 or . 

The testing area includes wells in the Tainter Creek Watershed in both Crawford and Vernon counties. The results for individual wells are COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL, and a presentation on the non-specific, higher level results, as well as options for well owners who discover problems will be made free of charge by staff from UW-Stevens Point in late 2019 or early 2020.

Spots in the test are limited and will be awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis, so don’t delay.

Grazing study

Final approval has been made for a grant to the Wallace Center Pasture Project, through the U.S. EPA Gulf of Mexico Project, for a study in a watershed to see what the effects of increased adoption of managed intentional grazing is on water quality. The Pasture Project has selected the Tainter Creek Watershed Council as their partner. The study will span three growing seasons – 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22.

The total grant is for $1.3 million, of which $370,000 will be spent on technical assistance and installation of practices in the watershed and the rest will be used for a modeling project designed to demonstrate any potential impacts.

Producers in the Tainter Creek Watershed interested in conversion of row crop land to pasture, or in upgrading existing pastures or grazing systems should start the process by contacting Matt Emslie at Valley Stewardship Network. Matt can be reached at 608-637-3615 or at

Farmland preservation

Vernon County Conservationist Ben Wojahn reminded everyone present at the meeting that an advisory referendum would be held on Tuesday, Oct. 22, in Franklin Township about adoption of Farmland Preservation Zoning.

Wojahn encouraged everyone to become informed on the issue, and to consider voting ‘yes’ on the referendum.

Utica Township in Crawford County has already adopted Farmland Preservation Zoning, so if it were adopted in Vernon County Franklin Township, that means that the entire Tainter Creek Watershed would be covered under the Farmland Preservation Program.