An agreement made in March by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Waupaca County Land and Water Conservation Department and several northeast Wisconsin counties made it official: Wisconsin is now home to four demonstration farm networks, including this new entity, known as the Upper Fox-Wolf Demonstration Farm Network.
The Upper Fox-Wolf Demonstration Farm Network covers a large geographical area — eight counties to be exact — and is comprised of 10 farms, each with something innovative to share with other farmers in the Great Lakes basin and Wolf River basin, an area that includes the entire Wolf River, which joins the Upper Fox River at the Lake Winnebago Pool lakes.
“All 10 farms are slightly different, with each county selecting them based on prior knowledge of their operations,” said Derrick Raspor, a soil conservationist with Waupaca County that has also been hired as the new demonstration farm network’s coordinator.
The new network includes four dairies and six cash crop operations, scattered throughout the region: Hintz Farms of Amherst, Gehrke Family Farms of Omro, Albright Brothers of Omro, Deta J Farms of Van Dyne, Piney Lawn Acres of Fond du Lac, Pollack Vu Farm of Ripon, Zeb Zuehls Farm of Montello, Erickson Dairy Farm of Bear Creek, Tauchen Harmony Valley of Bonduel and Dan and Ruth Boerst Farm of Manawa.
Each farm will be testing innovative conservation systems — such as cover cropping, low-disturbance manure injection and no-till, to name a few — and sharing their observations and findings with other farmers who may be interested in trying some of these practices themselves. As part of the agreement, each farm dedicates about 100 acres for use in the demonstration farm network.
“Some of the farms in the area have been doing soil health for a few years and others wanted to be more involved,” Raspor said. “That’s where we come in as a network and help them build better practices on the farm.”
One dairy farmer in the Upper Fox-Wolf network has been working on converting a manure hauler tank into a piece of equipment used for low disturbance injection, which is becoming more and more popular. However, not many farmers have their own equipment, so having this farmer participate in the network allows other farmers to see how it has been done on a neighboring operation.
Inter-seeding has been another hot topic this year within the network, Raspor said. Roller crimping and relay cropping, or planting a second crop into the first crop before harvest, are other practices that demonstration network farms have been experimenting with this year as well.
In an effort to share the information gathered at each farm in the demonstration network, participants are planning field days and events held on the farms, with one planned for Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gehrke Family Farms in Omro. This field day will feature fall cover crops, no-till, prairie strips, roller crimping, a rainfall simulator and a soil pit dug across different management types to show attendees what the ground looks like below.
A website for the Upper Fox-Wolf Demonstration Farm Network is also in the works and should be live within the next few weeks. Those interested can also sign up for a text service that will alert them about upcoming field days, as some may be planned quickly with short notice. If someone is interested in receiving text messages about upcoming field days and events related to the demo network, they can text FoxWolfDemo to 88202.
“We just launched in March so we’re exploring avenues to get the word out about the new demonstration farm network,” Raspor said.
For more information about the newly created Upper Fox-Wolf Farm Demonstration Network, visit the group’s Facebook or Twitter pages by searching @FoxWolfDemo. Questions may also be directed to Raspor at email@example.com or 715-802-7101.