HARTFORD, Mich. — Peek inside the National Geographic December 2020 issue and you might see some familiar names. In the summer of 2019, a writer and photographer visited our area and interviewed Van Buren Conservation District staff and several local farmers for an article on the Great Lakes.
“We were excited to be able to share some of the positive work we’re doing that benefits both farms and water quality,” said Conservation Technician Colleen Forestieri. “We’re working with the University of Notre Dame to research the effectiveness of farm conservation practices, and that caught National Geographic’s eye. The Great Lakes are under a lot of stress, but we were able to show that there’s a lot being done to protect our beautiful lakes.”
In the fall of 2020, the conservation district used grant funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to provide cost share to farmers to install over 2,000 acres of cover crops in the Hartford area. Cover crops are plants grown on farm fields in the off-season to protect and improve the soil. “We’re concentrating our efforts in a small watershed at the moment to see if we can see an effect on water quality if we really blanket the area with conservation practices,” says Watershed Coordinator Erin Fuller. “The statewide average for cover crops is somewhere around 6%, but with this program, we have about 50-60% of agricultural acres cover cropped in this small area.” Cover crops reduce runoff and erosion in the off season – benefitting water quality – and also improve soil health and balance soil moisture which benefits the farmer.
“We’re really grateful we’ve had so many farmers work with us. It’s not easy to adopt new practices, but they have taken that leap of faith and are beginning to see the benefits to their operation,” says Forestieri. The conservation district has funding to cost share cover crops and other conservation practices in select areas for the next three years.
The full writeup, entitled “Saving the Great Lakes,” is available in the December 2020 issue of National Geographic magazine.
— Van Buren Conservation District
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