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Tainter Creek Watershed Council farmers looking towards 2020
Cattle grazing in Driftless

CRAWFORD AND VERNON COUNTIES - With harvest well in progress, temperatures plunging and snow beginning to fall, many farmers will agree that 2019 will be a good growing season to put behind us. The farmers of the Tainter Creek Watershed Council (TCWC) gathered in Gays Mills on Thursday, Nov. 7 to celebrate their 2019 achievements and begin to plan for 2020.

The group was recently notified that they have been fully funded at the $40,000 level from the DATCP Producer-Led Watershed Council program for the third year in a row. It’s likely this reflects the good use the farmer-members of the council have made of the funds in the last two years.

Gabe Brown re-cap

Just a month before, the ‘Turn Your Farm Around with Gabe Brown’ event sponsored by the council had drawn a record-breaking 200 participants. Brown is a North Dakota farmer who is a widely recognized expert on and personal practitioner of ‘regenerative agriculture.’ The week after Brown spoke to farmers in Southwest Wisconsin he returned home to over three feet of unseasonal snowfall.

Monique Hassman of the Vernon County Land Conservation Department presented ‘event survey results’ from the event, as well as feedback for future workshops, to the council members.

• 88 percent of participants found the topics covered ‘very relevant’

• 80 percent of participants came from outside the watershed from such far-flung places as Kewaunee County, Marathon County, and Eau Claire; many others came from neighboring watersheds in Southwest Wisconsin

• 97 percent of participants reported that as a result of the event, their understanding of managing for healthy soils improved

• 94 percent reported that as a result of the event they intend to do things differently

Feedback about future education events included:

• More of a focus on how to transition dairy to a grass-based system

• How to incorporate no-till into organic production

• How to address compaction

Funds for practices

TCWC is partnering with the Wallace Center Pasture Project on a three-year study of how increased grazing in a watershed can impact water quality. The overall purpose of the initiative, funded through a grant from the US-EPA Gulf of Mexico Project, is to directly reduce nutrients and sediment in Tainter Creek through adoption of regenerative grazing practices. 

These practices include grazing of cover crops, improving existing grazing practices, and converting cropland to pasture. The funding available can be paired with funding from other sources, for instance NRCS EQIP funding.

Eligible project cost share practices include:

• New permanent perimeter fencing

• Replacing old perimeter fencing

• Temporary fencing

• Water systems: watering facility

• Water systems: livestock pipeline

• Seed

• Planting equipment (e.g. no-till drill rental)

• Trailer/corral kit rental

Producers who farm land in the Tainter Creek Watershed can begin to explore how the project funds could be used to improve their operations by contacting Matt or Monique at 608-637-3615. From there, next steps would include a whole farm-grazing assessment; a whole farm-grazing plan with cost quotes completed; and finally, a whole farm-grazing plan implementation and follow up support from the project team.

Well water testing

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, watershed council members Chuck and Karen Bolstad drove 40 water samples from the watershed up to the laboratory at UW-Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science and Education. Their journey was facilitated with the loan of a vehicle by Sleepy Hollow Motors and watershed council member Spanky Felton.

This is the second round of well water tests the farmers have helped to pay for in the watershed. The first set of samples was taken a year before, and showed a mix of great and concerning results. The farmers hope to develop a baseline of groundwater quality in the watershed that they can use to measure their efforts to maintain and increase the quality of the water where they live and farm.

As in 2018, all individual well testing results will be completely confidential. As before, staff from UW-Stevens Point will travel down to provide a community groundwater education event using non-specific, high-level information from the testing results in the next few months.

NMP funding

Vernon and Crawford county producers interested in controlling their input costs and protecting groundwater are urged to take advantage of nutrient management  funding available from the Vernon County Land Conservation Department. Interested producers are urged to contact the LCD by December 1 at 608-637-5480.

Nurtrient Management planning manages the amount, form, placement, timing and application of animal manure, commercial fertilizer, bio-solids, and other plant nutrients used in the production of agricultural products to prevent pollution, maintain soil productivity and achieve realistic yield goals.

The funding will include:

• A one-time payment of $40-acre of cropland for new plans

• Cost-share to help cover the soil samples if a producer takes the class to write their own plans

• Cost-share to help cover the cost of the NMP class tuition if a producer wants to write their own plan

Once a producer has adopted a NMP, then additional funding becomes available for the following practices:

• Cover crops ($25/acre up to four years)

• Contours

• Strip cropping

• Residue management

Cover crops

Berent Froiland reminded producers in the Tainter Creek Watershed that the watershed council currently has funds available for cover crops seeds. The funding is for a total of 600 acres, with a 40-acre max per producer, at $25 per acre. So far, 380 acres have been reserved. Producers will plant the acres and then submit a receipt for reimbursement. To sign up, contact Berent Froiland at 608-391-0570 or