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

  • Front.sculpt
    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.
  • Front.pull
    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.

Ray Simpkins: Conservation Farmer of the Year

Written by David Green.


It’s no secret that there’s federal money behind conservation practices. When a farmer creates a grassy buffer alongside a stream, for example, a payment is given to help make up for the loss of crop production.

It’s the old carrot-and-stick approach to encourage good conservation practices.

ray_simpkins Some producers don’t really require the financial incentive. It’s just part of their philosophy of good land stewardship.

Place Raymond Simpkins in that category. His farming practices earned him an award as the county’s Conservation Farmer of the Year. Simpkins will be honored Jan. 19 at the annual Lenawee Conservation District banquet.

“I’ve always been an outdoorsman and conservation fits into what I’ve believed in,” he said.

Simpkins participates in several federal programs and he also takes some action voluntarily. In addition, he’s served as a persuasive force in convincing other farmers to try out some conservation measures.

Simpkins farms his own property and rents land from three other property owners. All of his bean fields use no-till cultivation and about three-fourths of his corn fields. He became a no-till convert in 1985. Fifty-foot buffer strips are in place along creeks and ditches on all of the land he farms.

He’s created wildlife food plots in three areas, covering about two acres of land. The grassy strips create windbreaks as well as cover for wildlife.

He’s helped other land owners with wetland reclamation projects to create ponds that not only serve wildlife, but the producer, as well.

“It helps out other ground, too,” Simpkins said, “because it drains water to the pond.”

His nutrient management program checks nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous levels in both the fall and spring to avoid over-application. Simpkins built a chemical storage building to contain all agricultural chemicals in one location.

Simpkins interseeds wheat with clover to give it some cover over the winter, and he’s also done tree planting.

There are always hard-to-farm areas that are great candidates for grass strips or wildlife areas, Simpkins said. With some odd-shaped pieces of ground, it’s hard to operate large equipment.

“A few acres here and there aren’t going to make that much difference,” he said. “You should be able to give up some land.”

He’s also taking advantage of the new Conservation Security Program (CSP) that’s placing a focus on the River Raisin watershed. Unlike other USDA programs designed to address existing environmental programs, the CSP is designed for operations that have already addressed problems, while keeping the land in production.

“The program rewards producers for their existing conservation projects that they installed over the years,” said Tom VanWagner of the Lenawee Conservation District. “This program fits Ray very well because of his long-term history of conservation.”

Simpkins believes the efforts to encourage good conservation practices will only increase in the future. He knows some farmers are reluctant to have “the government tell them what to do with their land,” but Simpkins doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s in our own best interest for relations with consumers,” he said.

When people notice the green grass of filter strips and waterways, and they see clean water flowing in streams, they know that farmers are concerned about the environment, too.

Simpkins’ grass filter strips are in a 10-year federal program, but when that runs out, he knows that he’ll leave them in place anyway, because it’s a good thing to do.

“A lot of what I’ve done has just been on my own,” he said.

That’s the way he intends to farm in the future, too, putting good conservation measures into practice.

   - Jan. 11, 2006


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