Ray Simpkins: Conservation Farmer of the Year

Written by David Green.

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

 

  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.
  • 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.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

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016