The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Chad Hart: Saving soil 2008.09.10

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

With deep gullies and a washout big enough to swallow a pickup truck, Chad Hart knew some major work was in order if he was going to turn his new property into productive farmland.

Chad’s father, Brad, of Hartland Farms, wanted his son to have some acreage of his own and arranged to purchase 104 acres from Bob Beagle, just east of Posey Lake Highway off M-34.chad.hart.1.jpg

Chad is following a pattern that’s common to many farmers who have an eye toward stewardship of the land: Buy the property; plant it into wheat; after the harvest in late July, get busy on land improvements. The final element, of course, is to get the land back into production the next spring.

Brad Hart has worked with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for years on a variety of projects, said Tom Van Wagner of the Lenawee Soil Conservation District. Brad recommended that his son develop a relationship with the USDA to tackle critical erosion problems on the farm.

At the back of the property, the land slopes downward at a rate of eight feet every hundred. Runoff picks up a lot of speed as it heads down the field and washes out soil.

“I can’t tell you how much erosion there was here,” Van Wagner said.

He describes the south 34 acres of the farm as “a totally different world than the front 60 acres.”

“The whole back end of the farm was in the 10-year Conservation Reserve Program,” Van Wagner said. “Chad wanted to repair the washouts in the field, but put the majority of the 34 acres back into production.”

Most of the erosion is gully erosion caused by surface water runoff. In Lenawee County, that problem is fixed by using grass waterways and/or Water and Sediment Control Basins (WASCOBs).

“Grass waterways stabilize the eroded areas by shaping out a channel and seeding it to a permanent grass cover,” Van Wagner explained. “WASCOBs intercept the surface water in a cross slope temporary basin and release the water through an underground outlet over a 24-hour period.”

After evaluating the soil erosion issues on the farm with Hart, several alternative solutions were discussed. In the end, a detailed plan was developed incorporating a variety of conservation projects.chad.hart.2.jpg

The land now benefits from: more than 100,000 feet of subsurface drains, two erosion control structures, 14 WASCOBs (with dikes and terraces), five acres of contour buffer strips and three acres of conservation cover on steep sand hills. Cover crops, conservation rotation and conservation tillage systems will be used during crop production. 

Hart signed up for two cost-share programs to assist in paying for his conservation plan.  EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) and CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) are voluntary erosion control and wildlife habitat projects sponsored  by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Hart will receive cost share payments that range from 50 to 65 percent of the cost, depending on the conservation program.

Each dike has a grass filter strip measuring about 50 feet wide—all the way across the field. In addition to the wildlife component of the strips, they should make for easier farming, Van Wagner said, by keeping heavy equipment away from the dikes.

CREP regulations require Hart to maintain the filter strips for 15 years. In addition, manure must be applied on the fields only during certain times of the year and will be incorporated into the soil to minimize the potential for runoff that could work its way into the subsurface drainage system.

In the future, Hart will seed the south 34 acres to alfalfa to improve soil structure and reduce erosion.

Van Wagner expects that Hart will recoup the cost of the drainage tile in about five years. Tiling, he said, should result in a yield increase of between 15 and 20 percent.

“This work will pay for itself a lot faster now,” Dave Dunn of Dave’s Drainage said. “It will take about 15 more bushels an acre to pay for it and we figure we can get that easily.”

That sounds good to Hart. The demand for grain is there, he said, and he wants to do his part to fill the need.

His goal is to produce as much as possible from his acreage—and to make it a good farm.

“We want to make it better than when we came,” Dunn said.

“A lot better,” Hart adds.

Van Wagner handles more than 150 conservation projects every year, but he sees this one as different than the others.

“What’s unique about this is that a young farmer wants to do it,” Van Wagner said. “Chad came in to talk to us about an erosion problem. There are a lot of projects involved in it and it’s larger than a typical effort.”

Hart graduated from Hudson High School in 2004 and studied at MSU’s Institute of Agricultural Technology. December will mark two years since he’s been back at the family farm. He started talking with Van Wagner about a conservation plan and program last December.

“It’s a pretty big puzzle, really,” Hart said, looking across the field at the heavy equipment shaping the line of a dike.

As the pieces of the puzzle come together, Hart will end up with a productive farm—a farm that optimizes its potential, Van Wagner said, with minimal soil loss.

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