One of the first actions of newly appointed State Conservationist Angela Biggs was to approve a $350,000 agreement with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) demonstration farm network for Kewaunee and Door counties.

Biggs’ appointment was announced April 20 by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of Wisconsin, a division of USDA. She spent the last seven years as an assistant state conservationist in Illinois and is originally from Northeast Iowa, said Joe Johnson, NRCS district conservationist for Kewaunee and Door counties.

The Door-Kewaunee Watershed Demonstration Farm Network will test “the effectiveness and adaptability of conservation practices designed to reduce erosion and nonpoint source pollution in areas with shallow, fractured bedrock,” according to a DATCP web page about the project.

A demonstration project at Brickstead Farm in Greenleaf, part of the Lower Fox Watershed Demonstration Farms Network. NRCS photo

Three demo farms will be established in Kewaunee County, one in Door, Johnson said.

“The grant is basically used to set up the four demonstration farms,” he said. “Each farm will have 200 dedicated acres to the demo farm project. They will have very specific soil testing done on those 200 acres, and then various practices are tried out on those 200 acres.”

Field days are held with tours so that farmers can see for themselves “how these various practices are working, see how they’re not working as the case may be,” Johnson said. “Sometimes failures are just as valuable as successes.”

The DATCP site says the main goals are:

Test the effectiveness of current and innovative conservation systems as they pertain to nonpoint pollution control.

Establish an efficient and effective mechanism to provide the transfer of technology and information on the effectiveness of conservation systems to the end-users, land management agencies, agribusiness and the public.

Create opportunities for others including resource, environmental and research agencies and agribusiness to test research, technical assistance and program implementation on the demonstration farm sites.

Create and implement an information and outreach strategy to share information and lessons learned to other natural resource managers, researchers, and stakeholders throughout the Great Lakes basin.

The Kewaunee County Land and Water Conservation Department will be providing technical assistance to the farms in setting up these practices. Supervising the network will be Barry Bubolz, NRCS district conservationist and area Great Lakes Restoration Initiative coordinator, who has been responsible for a successful demo farm network in Brown County.

“The value of these tours is to get the farmers together to talk to each other, because in a lot of cases we’re reinventing the wheel because we’re not talking to each other,” Johnson said.