SWCD recognizes conservation efforts of local farm families

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A thick mat of corn stalk residue protects Ed Ruff’s cropland. (Submitted photos)

Arlyn Adney’s no-till soybeans emerge through the terminated cereal rye cover crop.

No-till corn, soybeans, terraces and waterways at the Tayek farm.

The Kregels' windbreak protects the house and farmstead.

The Clayton Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) recognized the outstanding conservation efforts of local farm families during its Dec. 3 meeting. This year’s award winners showcase a variety of conservation efforts and each recipient provides an outstanding example of what people can do to protect the natural resources enjoyed in northeast Iowa. The awards program is co-sponsored by the Clayton County Farm Bureau and Clayton County Pheasants Forever.  


Ed Ruff is the 2020 Owner-Operator Award winner for the Clayton SWCD. Ruff operates 84 acres of cropland in northeast Clayton County, near Farmersburg. His farm is protected by a system of terraces that slow surface runoff and create a permanent contour farming pattern. Ruff first experimented with no-till in 1990. He currently operates one of the few farms in the county that fully employs a no-till system for continuous corn production.    


Ruff recently added cover crops to his farm. Since 2018, he has aerially seeded cereal rye to standing corn during the first week of September. The goal is to get the rye emerged and growing prior to corn harvest. The cover crop protects soils from erosion until spring, suppresses weeds, improves soil moisture efficiency and increases organic matter. Ruff is a certified crop advisor and recently retired as the farm business and production management instructor at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. His farm showcases the conservation principles and management strategies that he promoted among his students and clients.  


Jason and Jerry Tayek were selected for recognition in the Landlord/Tenant Division by the Clayton SWCD. This division highlights the cooperation necessary to achieve the common goal of conserving natural resources. Jerry’s farm includes around 300 acres of cropland and timber near Giard. Jason leases the farm from his father.    


Jason utilizes a no-till system and rotates corn and soybeans. He has modified his anhydrous ammonia applicator to minimize soil disturbance and the results have drawn compliments from his neighbors each spring. Jerry established the original contour lines that are followed on the farm, constructed 2,165 feet of terraces on fragile slopes and maintains grassed waterways to convey runoff. The combination of practices utilized by Jason and Jerry ensures very little soil ever leaves their farm.  


The Clayton SWCD’s New Cooperator Award was presented to Arlyn Adney. Adney operates 220 acres of cropland owned by his father, Allen, just west of Marquette. It’s a scenic farm with cropland, pasture and timber that overlooks the Bloody Run valley. Soils are productive but fragile. The farm exemplifies a longstanding family tradition of conservation work.  


Allen was recognized as the Goodyear Outstanding Farmer of the year by the Clayton SWCD in 1998. During his farming career, Allen constructed over 16,000 feet of terraces and a series of sediment basins and ponds to slow erosion. Some of the steepest slopes are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and are seeded to permanent grasses. Since he has operated the farm, Arlyn has implemented a no-till system for corn and soybean production and drills cover crops following harvest. He routinely “plants green” into covers each spring and has noticed improvements in rainfall infiltration and soil health.   


Kregel Farms received the 2020 Izaak Walton League Windbreak Award. The windbreak is located a few miles northwest of Garnavillo. In 2011, Brian Kregel planted three rows of Arbor Vitae, Black Hills Spruce and Norway Spruce on the west side of the farmstead. The windbreak protects the house, buildings and grain facilities from winter winds and adds beauty, wildlife habitat and diversity to the property. Their work to maintain the windbreak is evident in the outstanding growth and appearance of the trees.  


Ron Kaiser and Owen Sylvester were recognized for their longstanding commitment to local conservation initiatives. Ron served as a Clayton SWCD commissioner for 45 years. Owen served the district for 36 years. Their leadership has shaped conservation efforts and their service is evident in each of the conservation practices that are visible across Clayton County. Current SWCD commissioners include Mark Glawe, Daryl Keehner, Gerry Ommen, Robert Sass, Tina Troester and Agnes Kenney.

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