The farmer-led conservation group Peninsula Pride Farms gives Tony Brey “the ability to ask the right questions,” the co-owner of Brey Cycle Farm said last week during the group’s annual meeting.

Brey was one of five people on a panel discussion of how agriculture and other community partners could work together on positive environmental outcomes. He said that trading information with other farmers helps understand what works and doesn’t work with various conservation practices.

“I think the advantage for us being members of Peninsula Pride – the collaboration, the field days, the ability, my brothers and I, to see what other farmers are doing or how they’ve done things and try to replicate or improve upon them,” Brey said.

Randy Ebert of Ebert Enterprises joked that “We as farmers like to ride up and down the road and see what everybody else is doing wrong.”

He agreed that learning what has worked and what hasn’t is a key to progress on the environment – especially learning from mistakes.

“We’ve tried a lot of things and I can tell you, I can talk the details on the things that failed way better than I can tell the things that have worked,” Ebert said.

Dennis Frame, a retired University of Wisconsin-Extension agent who moderated the discussion, said “the one thing that really excites me about farmers is you’re not afraid to experiment.”

Frame was co-founder of the UW Discovery Farms program and now runs a consulting service called Timber Ridge consulting that helps farmers evaluate environmental performance. He said that at the first meeting of the Discovery Farms initiative, eight farmers sat around the table with a clear vision that agriculture contributed to water quality.

“And then 10 minutes later it finally came out that every person in that room was positive that if the other idiots in that room only farmed the way they farmed, there would be no issues,” Frame said. “I finally realized that farmers all agree ‘Yep, we got a problem, and nope, it’s not me.’”

The key to making it better is understanding “all of us have a piece, some pieces are bigger than others,” Frame said.

The organization posted a video of the panel discussion on Facebook – it’s embedded below.

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