The Root River Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) recently announced that Josh and Stephanie Dahl are the 2018 Conservation Farmers of the Year. The Dahls are from Yucatan Township and are milk producers.

With areas of the Dahl Farm considered highly erodible due to the natural slope, along with many ravines and this area’s karst topography, production agriculture can be very challenging in Houston County. Therefore, the Dahls have employed many conservation practices on their farm in order to address these challenges while milking cows on their rural Rushford farm.

Conservation practices installed and managed on their farm include contour strip farming on the farm’s row crop and hay acres, a couple miles of grassed waterways, several water and sediment control basins, critical area plantings, and grade stabilization structures. In addition, the Dahls have implemented conservation practices pertaining to their dairy facility. In order to address the nutrients generated from the livestock on the farm, the Dahls worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a plan to better manage those nutrients. Through those planning efforts, the NRCS and Dahls agreed to make improvements to their operation that included construction of a concrete manure basin that enables longer term storage of manure nutrients. By storing the manure generated by the dairy, the Dahls are better able to apply those nutrients at more opportune times of the year. Better nutrient management has allowed them to dial in their agronomic needs to more efficient levels. In addition, an open lot was eliminated and housing was constructed to house heifers and dry cows. A separate building was also constructed that houses calves. By keeping their cattle under roofs the Dahls are able to eliminate the potential of contaminated runoff from leaving an open lot during rain events. It is through a comprehensive conservation effort that Dahls have become a great example of stewardship.

The Dahl farm consists of 420 ridgetop acres located directly upstream of Bridge Creek. Through their conservation efforts, the Dahls are hoping to improve the water quality of Bridge Creek through reducing losses of sediment and nutrients from their farm. The Bridge Creek Watershed is a conservation focus area within the larger Root River Watershed.

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