Western Wisconsin Conservation Council shares research insights at annual meeting
Farmers in western Wisconsin continue their collaborative efforts in building more sustainable farms. The Western Wisconsin Conservation Council held its annual meeting on Dec. 14, highlighting the significant strides made by its member farmers in developing and implementing sustainable agricultural practices.
The meeting opened with a review of the WWCC's 2023 achievements, presented by President Todd Doornink, demonstrating the group’s commitment to environmental stewardship and community engagement.
“2023 has been an interesting year,” Doornink said. “We’re up to 63 members now, entering the sixth year of our member conservation surveys and fifth year of our cost-share program.”
Keynote speakers, including Shawn Wesener from Farmers for Sustainable Food, shared insights from the 2023 Member Conservation Practice Survey, underscoring the varying types of participating farms and different practices implemented. Wesener noted the high number of member responses to this year’s survey.
“Of the 61 members, 59 responded to the survey,” Wesener said. “With a 97% response rate, this is some of the best data I have ever seen.”
The meeting also featured updates from Dr. Jill Coleman Wasik on critical programs such as the Well Testing Lysimeter and the DATCP Nitrogen Optimization Pilot Project, highlighting the collaborative efforts of WWCC members in optimizing resource usage and minimizing environmental impacts. Wasik noted the positive results already being seen just three years into the study.
“A lot of wells are showing declines [in nitrate levels] after just three years,” Dr. Coleman Wasik said. “Maybe this issue won’t take as long to correct as we initially thought.”
Dave Tollberg, a WWCC member, also added some perspective on Dr. Coleman Wasik’s presentation, noting farm-level impacts of profitability with some of the research being done.
Spencer Anderson, from 715Ag Supply LLC, provided soil health outcomes from the Haney soil health test the group cost-shared with The Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin. A Haney test measures the soil’s condition and balance though many metrics. This process can help farmers determine any necessary changes for their fields’ nutrient levels.
The program finished with a farmer panel moderated by Dave Tollberg and featured local farmers Todd Doornink, Greg Friendshuh, Skipp Grosskreutz and Scott Carlson. Each farmer shared personal experiences and lessons learned in 2023. All four use cover crops with success and relatively few challenges, though all reiterated the need for proper management, including timing of termination.
“We started using cover crops to help combat erosion,” Doornink said. “Since then, we’ve actually started using them for more crops.”
Carlson said they believe in the practices they are implementing on their farm.
“I don’t know if it pays for itself, but it sure looks like the right thing to do,” Carlson said.
The WWCC closed the meeting with remarks from Doornink, including recognition of Jeff Lueck for his time of service on the board, and the election of the new board for 2024. Doornink and Larry Knutson were re-elected, and Kevin Solum was newly elected to the board. Doornink was also re-elected president, Greg Friendshuh vice president, Skip Grosskreutz secretary and Tom Zwald will serve as treasurer for 2024. Spencer Anderson, Jerry Emmert and Dave Tollberg will continue their seats on the board.