By ANDREW LERSTEN – H-P South Haven Bureau
PAW PAW – A group of Van Buren County farmers went on a field trip Wednesday. Literally.
The Van Buren Conservation District invited the farmers to get on a bus and travel to several farms in the Paw Paw and Decatur areas in order to kick off a grant program designed to teach better soil conservation methods.
They walked through fields to see the benefits of such conservation techniques as no-till farming, and the use of cover crops and filter strips.
Contributed photo. Jared Foster of the Van Buren Conservation District holds a lump of sod as he discusses the benefits of cover crops at a Paw Paw Township farm Wednesday. It was part of a field trip for farmers to help educate them about soil conservation methods.
“It went great. We had a great showing,” said district director A.J. Brucks. An estimated two dozen people, including about 15 farmers, went on the farm tour, she said. “It was a good crew and the field visits were great,” she said. “The weather wasn’t too bad. We even got a little sunshine.”
The conservation district received a $25,000 grant to teach corn farmers in the Paw Paw River Watershed this year how to use free online software to collect data and help them adopt better farm management practices.
The district will teach corn growers to use the Fieldprint Calculator, and the data provided by those farmers will then allow conservation district staff to develop strong data related to the watershed.
The field trip started with a detailed presentation on how the specialized software works. Technician Jared Foster used data provided by a Hamilton Township farmer to show how the system works.
“I think people got the idea off it pretty well,” Foster said.
The grant is from the Coca-Cola Co. and the World Wildlife Fund, and is renewable for another $25,000 next year.
The Fieldprint Calculator software was developed by the Field to Market organization. It is free for use by the public, and can be found on the Field to Market website.
The conservation district will use the grant money to do outreach programs to educate the watershed’s corn farmers, and to train the farmers on using the software.
All data collected will be anonymous.