Peninsula Pride Farms submitted the following letter April 9 to the Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Committee.
Given the recent county water quality analysis, we want to take the opportunity to provide insights about our ongoing farmer-led watershed conservation efforts.
Our culture at Peninsula Pride Farms, now starting its fourth year, is one in which farmers are empowered to continuously improve on practices that affect the environment. We have high goals
and expectations for ourselves, and we are fully committed to each other and the broader community. We all want clean water.
In that pursuit, we have worked collaboratively with local, state and federal agencies, researchers, conservation professionals and other agricultural experts to develop best practices and implement them how and where they will have the greatest positive impact.
We count on science to help us understand the issues, identify possible solutions and measure progress.
As Dr. Mark Borchardt’s research has demonstrated, we know that the sources of water contamination on the peninsula are both bovine and human. His new analysis suggests that on farmland we tend to see more coliforms and nitrates, while in residential areas we see more human septic-based organisms. This in itself is not too surprising.
The analysis, however, does demonstrate that when dealing with more sensitive areas we need to be continuously adopting better farming practices to achieve improvements in water quality regardless of the contamination source.
Peninsula Pride Farms has zeroed in on a number of best management practices that we support, including through cost sharing with members:
- Cover crops: A year-round growing crop takes up nitrogen and prevents it from leaching through the soil and down to ground water.
- Split nitrogen application: Smaller amounts of nitrogen applied to fields more frequently are less likely to penetrate below the growing crop zone.
- Harvestable buffers around sinkholes: We understand the potential for sinkholes to transport contaminants directly to the aquifer. These buffers serve as filters that capture nutrients and sediment.
- Measuring depth of soil to bedrock: It is important for a farmer to know the locations of the most sensitive areas of the fields so practices can be adjusted.
Cost-share support comes from dues, public and private grants, and local businesses to help manage the costs of more expensive farming practices. This allows us to try new practices without the concern of a costly failure.
Dewatering: Another practice, not cost-shared by Peninsula Pride Farms, is the reduction of water that gets added to manure. Feed pad leachate, stormwater runoff and excess water from the milk parlors often contains little or no amounts of nutrients but is required to be collected and added to the manure lagoon. There, it mixes with manure and becomes part of the liquid that is spread on fields. Anything we can do to reduce the additional water is important. Increasing the percentage of solids makes it easier for the manure to bind with soil particles, which reduces ground water infiltration.
It is important to note there is no one-size-fits-all approach to best management practices. What may be effective on one farm may not be on another, and the practices may not even be the same from one growing season to the next.
A core belief of Peninsula Pride Farms is that the best way to develop and apply new practices is to give our members the freedom to determine which ones make the most sense on their individual farms.
Our group’s role is to stimulate and support new ideas based on new information and technology.
We are extremely grateful for the support and encouragement from those around us to continue on our mission. We strongly believe that the Door-Kewaunee Peninsula can have clean, safe water and a thriving agricultural community together.