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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Water Infiltration Farm Tour, and Lunch

We had hoped for at least 100 participants at our July 27 Uplands Watershed Farm Tour, but as RSVPs kept coming in, we ordered more food, and then again more. So there were 120 of us gathered that sunny, breezy morning at Joe and Theresa Stapleton’s farm in Spring Green to talk about water infiltration – why it matters and how to increase it. Standing in a hilltop field, snacking on cookies from Upland farmer, Patrick Michaels, we heard Joe describe how nutrient management planning and no-till planting helped reduce costs. Brain Hillers, NRCS Regional Soil Scientist and Kaitlin Schott, NRCS Iowa County used infiltration rings to compare infiltration on parts of Joe’s field that had been compacted by tractor wheels and others that hadn’t, and everyone witnessed a Slake Test to see how cover crops influenced the amount of plant sugar “glue” that holds soils together.

Downhill at the Cates Family Farm, Professor Francisco Arriaga gesticulated from the bottom of a soil pit that traversed a fence, showing how soil organic matter in a long-managed pasture exceeded even that of the adjacent field long in CRP, and he showed the rapid infiltration in pastured ground. A Class 2 trout stream running through the Cates farm, on the banks of which Trout Unlimited’s Duke Welter showed why trout fishermen care about conservation practices that keep soil in fields and water in the ground. He and his wife each caught a brook trout that morning, attesting to the health of a stream that originates in and traverses carefully managed agricultural lands.

Over a delicious lunch of Gulf shrimp and the Cates’ own grass-based burgers, chips, cole slaw (made by Uplands farmer Halee Wepking with produce from another Uplands farm), and from-scratch lemon bars (also a Wepking original), Iowa County Conservationist Katie Abbott and Agriculture Agent Gene Schriefer talked about nutrient management planning and how farmers can benefit from writing and implementing their own plans. Their nutrient management planning class starts Wednesday, August 29 from 10am to 2:30pm here in Dodgeville, with a follow-up in December. (Space is limited so please reserve your spot by contacting Gene Schriefer, UW-Extension, at (608)930-9850 or gene.schriefer@ces.uwex.edu.)

Finally, Louisiana Bayou fisherman Lance Nacio projected photos from his life as a Gulf fisherman onto a sheet stapled to the barn wall. Pictures of estuaries in the Bayou and one of his fishing trawlers in the Gulf, images of the Dead Zone that’s created when too many nutrients leave Midwestern farms and travel down the Mississippi to contaminate the Gulf of Mexico. Photos of the shrimp and fish that his family harvests – and we hope will continue to harvest if our farmers and their neighbors on the Midwestern farms adopt practices that help water infiltrate into the soil, keeping soil, nutrients and water where they’re needed on our farms.
  Duke Welter, with Trout Unlimited, explaining why trout fishermen care about well-managed lands like the Cates and Stapleton farms, through which this trout stream runs

   Margaret Krome, MFAI Policy Director, with Gulf fisherman Lance Nacio, as he’s showing slides from the Gulf.


  Joe Stapleton talking about his farm practices, as they conduct a slake test of two soils

  UW-Madison Soils Scientist Francisco Arriaga doing a soil organic matter test