Bob Packard named Conservation Farmer of the Year 2008.01.16

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Bob Packard’s Elliott Highway farm is as old as Michigan. Of course it’s nothing like it was in 1837 when his family first tilled the soil.

Packard sees a combination of both improvements and degradations, but one thing is clear in his operation of the farm: He’ll do his best to upgrade the condition of the land.

“I’d like to leave it a little better than when I got it,” he said

That attitude, along with his actions, led the Lenawee Conservation District to choose Packard as the 2007 Conservation Farmer. Although Packard is in Florida for the winter, he’ll be honored in absentia at the group’s annual dinner meeting Thursday in Adrian.

Not all of the Packards stayed on the farm—at least not initially. Bob’s father left the farm for a job near Detroit, but he returned in 1944 and that’s where Bob grew up. He graduated from Morenci—a football standout—and joined in the farming operation in 1962.

The 925 acres he has under cultivation now includes about 240 acres of the original farm. After his father died, Bob got rid of the 20-some cows, but he kept a few pigs on the farm for a while. For the most part, it’s been a life of corn, soybeans and wheat, although wheat has been absent from the Packard farm for several years now.

The list of Packard’s projects through the Conservation District is extensive.

He’s put in erosion control dikes, he’s filled in gullies and he’s planted grass strips along creeks. He’s invested in tree-planting projects, built two ponds and practiced forestry management. He’s also tried to improve conditions for wildlife and made a stab at bringing pheasants back to his property.

“Just about any program they had, I got into,” Packard said. “I enjoy seeing them built and I know we’re improving the land”.

Packard also has his land grid checked for fertilizer, with a GPS-controlled truck applying varying output as it travels across fields.

Modern farming practices can improve the soil, he said, but at the same time they increase the opportunities for erosion.

“We’re building the ground up more, but we can damage it more,” Packard said. “Going to corn and beans, you have more chances for erosion.”

In the past, the ground was often covered with hay to hold the land in place and serve as a natural fertilizer. To accommodate large farming equipment, fence rows have all but disappeared.

“Probably the worst thing we did was to take out all the fence rows,” Packard said, noting the damage to wildlife and reduction in trees. “You just don’t have enough cover for wildlife anymore.”

Packard is convinced that his conservation efforts are making a difference. He can see it in the clarity of Black Creek that passes through his property on the way to the River Raisin.

Anyone participating in federally-backed conservation programs appreciates the financial incentives involved, but that’s not what draws the attention of farmers like Bob Packard.

“You can make money from them,” he said, “but that isn’t the idea.”

For him, it’s all about taking care of the land.

  • Front.splash
    Water Fun—Carter Seitz and Colson Walter take a fast trip along a plastic sliding strip while water from a sprinkler provides the lubrication. The boys took a break from tie-dyeing last week at Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program to cool off in the water.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.drum
    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks

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