For the love of the land: local farmer highlights use of conservation practices

Robert Maharry

To hear Fred Abels tell it, utilizing soil and water conservation techniques on his grain and cattle farm isn’t just good for the land or good for the environment. It’s good for business.
“Some of these things, I wish I would’ve done them 30 years ago,” he said. “It keeps your soil on the farm, and it keeps the nutrients there too.”
Abels, who manages his operation southwest of Holland and serves as one of two Soil and Water Conservation District commissioners for Grundy County, is a longtime proponent of practices like no-till (which he implemented in 1994), strip tillage, rotational grazing and cover crops, and with Soil and Water Conservation Week just around the corner (April 29 to May 6), he hopes to educate farmers and city dwellers alike on the environmental and financial benefits associated with them. 
Jim Everts, the other commissioner, owns farmland northwest of Fern and recently retired as a soil conservation technician with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). His current tenants are strip tilling and planting cover crops, and he notes that technological advances have made conservation more feasible and affordable for farmers across the country.
“Tilling the soil has always been the norm, and now it’s about changing their attitude about the norm,” Everts said. “Sometimes you’re scared to try something new because it’s been working, and why rock the boat?”
The recent push to improve Iowa’s water quality and reverse decades of nutrient runoff and soil loss has certainly helped. Nitrogen and phosphorus levels are common talking points in the statehouse lexicon, and signs promoting cover crop planting are visible throughout the area.
As the issue makes its way to the forefront of the political conversation here, Abels—a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa, a 16-year veteran of the SWCD board and an appointee on the newly minted Black Hawk Creek Water and Soil Coalition board—is finding unique ways to get involved and spread the word.
“My wife says (SWCD) is the only board I’m on that I don’t come home mad about,” he said. 
Read the full story in this week's Grundy Register. Subscribe by calling (319) 824-6958 or clicking here. 

The Grundy Register

601 G. Avenue - P.O. Box 245
Grundy Center, IA 50638
Telephone: 1-319-824-6958
Fax: 1-800-340-0805

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit for more information.