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

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Chad Hart: Saving soil 2008.09.10

Written 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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