Awards banquet honors conservation efforts of farm families

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Joe Donlon and Livingood Farms were selected for recognition in the landlord/tenant division of the 2017 Clayton Soil and Water Conservation District Awards program. Pictured (left to right) are Joe Donlon, Janet Livingood, Frank Livingood and commissioner Daryl Keehner.

Brian Keehner was selected as the 2017 Outstanding New Cooperator for the Clayton SWCD Pictured (left to right) are commissioner Ron Kaiser, Brian Keehner and Erling Bilden, representing the Farm Bureau.

Dan Rothmeyer received the 2017 Owner-Operator Award for the Clayton SWCD. Pictured are Owen Sylvester (left), from the Clayton SWCD, and Dan Rothmeyer.

The Clayton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) honored the outstanding conservation efforts of local farm families during the annual awards banquet held Dec. 7, at the Central State Bank Community Room in Elkader. This year’s award winners showcase a variety of conservation efforts, and each recipient provides an outstanding example of what can be done to protect the natural resources everyone enjoys in northeast Iowa. The local awards program is co-sponsored by the Clayton County Farm Bureau.  

Dan Rothmeyer

Dan Rothmeyer received the 2017 Owner-Operator Award for the Clayton SWCD. Dan owns and operates 365 acres of cropland in Monona Township, in northwest Clayton County. He continues a tradition of conservation work begun by his father, Joe Rothmeyer. In 1997, Joe received the Goodyear Outstanding Farmer Award from the Clayton Soil and Water Conservation District.  

Dan has implemented a combination of structural and management practices that reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss from his farms. The farm originally included a dairy enterprise and contour hay strips. Between 1990 and 1998, Joe and Dan constructed almost 22,000 feet of terraces to protect steep cropland slopes. Over the last decade, Dan has transitioned to corn and soybean production. As soybeans were added to his crop rotation, Dan experimented with no-till. He currently uses no-till where corn is planted into soybean stubble, or when soybeans are planted into corn stalks.  

Dan planted a filter strip along Silver Creek in 2009, and established permanent cover on two acres of shallow soils in 2016. Dan has planted a rye cover crop following soybean harvest each year since 2014. The combination of terraces, no-till and cover crops form an effective system of conservation practices.  

Joe Donlon and Frank Livingood

Joe Donlon and Frank Livingood were selected for recognition in the landlord/tenant division for 2017. This division highlights the cooperation necessary to achieve the common goal of conserving natural resources. Joe’s farm includes 166 acres of cropland south of Luana. Joe’s daughter, Janet, and his son-in-law, Frank Livingood, have leased the farm for eight years. Joe can often be found pulling anhydrous tanks in the spring, or following Frank’s combine with a grain cart in the fall.

Joe established the original contour lines that are still utilized on the farm. In 1990, he started the first of a series of terrace projects. The farm now features almost 17,000 feet of tile outlet terraces. Frank uses a no-till planting system with continuous corn, which can be challenging. Frank is always looking for ways to improve his no-till system. In 2017, Frank modified his planter to ensure reliable down pressure on his planting units. The system of terraces constructed by Joe, combined with the no-till utilized by Frank, ensures that very little soil ever leaves this farm.  

Brian Keehner

The Clayton SWCD’s New Cooperator Award was presented to Brian Keehner. Brian also continues a legacy of outstanding conservation work. His parents, Leigh and Gloria Keehner, were owner/operator award winners for the Clayton Soil and Water Conservation District in 2005. Brian purchased a tract including 106 acres of cropland just west of McGregor in 2013. Noting existing gullies on the property, he immediately set out to improve the farm.

Brian utilizes a no-till planting system for his corn/soybean rotation. By 2015, he had constructed 2.1 acres of new grassed waterways and 8,600 feet of terraces. Brian is also a leading advocate for cover crops. He has utilized a no-till drill, has tried aerial cover crop seeding and has experimented with a turbo seeder in previous years. In 2017, Brian added a broadcast seeder to his combine. As he harvests corn and soybeans, he is also seeding cover crops to protect his soil resource.

Izaak Walton League Windbreak Award

Brian Henning received the 2017 Izaak Walton League Windbreak Award. His farm is located just east of Farmersburg. Brian first established the windbreak on the north side of his building site in 2004, planting two rows of Arbor Vitae and a single row of Black Hills Spruce. In 2005, he planted the west side of the windbreak, utilizing the same species. Brian’s efforts to maintain the windbreak are evident in the outstanding growth of the trees. It protects the house and buildings from winter winds and adds beauty and diversity to the farmstead.  

Woodland Owner of the Year

The 2017 Woodland Owner of the Year Award was presented to Roger Koster and Grau Timberland, Inc. The Koster/Grau farm is located in Volga Township, northwest of Elkport. Roger and Chris Grau have worked hard to improve their timber and converted cropland to trees through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Their efforts have had a direct impact on the longevity of their forest resource.  

Roger and Chris developed their initial forest stewardship management plan in 1994. The plan outlined their goals for the property, which included the production of quality hardwood timber, to maintain and promote species diversity and to improve wildlife habitat. Between 1994 and 1995, they completed 73 acres of timber stand improvement (TSI). The goal of the TSI work was to remove weed trees such as ironwood and elm. This maximized the amount of sunlight available for desirable crop tree species, such as walnut, oak and maple.

Roger and Chris established 36 acres of new trees through CRP in 2003. While receiving the award, Chris pointed out Roger’s meticulous efforts to ensure the growth and success of the planting. He also kept careful records of his maintenance efforts, so that he could share the lessons learned with other woodland owners. Roger served as the district conservationist in Clayton County between 1966 -1983. He noted how much he enjoyed working with landowners, and accepted the award “on behalf of all of those who have worked to improve the woodlands and other resources that we have in Clayton County.”  

Other Honorees

On Sept. 19, 13 students from two local high schools gathered at the Tom and Agnes Kenney farm, near Elkader, for the 42nd annual Clayton SWCD soil judging contest. Participants judged soil profiles, tested their pacing ability and flagged contour lines. Individual and team winners were recognized at this year’s awards banquet.

Bernard Hanson served as a Clayton SWCD Commissioner for over 24 years. Awards in his name are presented to the top individual soil judge and pacing contest winners. Calvin Heims, of Ed-Co, was the top soil judge. Alexis Pash, from Central, took first place in the pacing contest. This year’s top contour layout team from Ed-Co included Cory Kloser and Wyatt Rowcliffe. Andrey Shirbroun, James Eberhardt, Laci Orr and Alexis Pash made up this year’s top soil judging team from Central.

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