The Tama Soil and Water Conservation District recently celebrated its 2020 and 2021 Conservation Award winners with an official announcement on Facebook.
The District Friend of Conservation Award is presented annually to Tama counties that make significant efforts to promote the management of the county’s soil and water resources.
Mike Snider of Traer (2020) and Tama County staff of ISU Extension & Outreach (2021) are this year’s Friends of Conservation award recipients.
Snider served as District Commissioner from 2005 to 2012. He served his peers as a true example of a land and water steward. In addition to practicing conservation on his own farm, Snider has been a huge advocate for cover crops and has mentored many growers in incorporating cover crops into their conservation toolkit.
Current Tama County extension and outreach staff include Cheryl Bruene, Jenny Hulme and Sara Sorensen. Local extension staff have been instrumental in Tama County Women, Land and Legacy since its inception in 2007, securing speakers for the event and providing exceptional leadership. Tama County 4-H is dedicated to educating about environmental issues through youth and adult programs like Monarchs on the Move, Native Bee Challenge, and the National 4-H Agri-Science Summit. Under the direction of staff, Tama County Master Gardeners planted three pollinator gardens demonstrating how small plots can attract birds, butterflies and bees. Signage and labels at each location help identify plants and inform about the benefits/importance of pollinators. Since the derecho of 2020, extension staff have been working to help replace trees that were lost during the storm, organizing tree seedling distributions in 12 towns in Tama County and tree planting training. trees.
Local Production Awards
2016 was the inaugural year for this award, created to recognize Tama counties involved in farm-to-table production.
Our 2020 winners were Jim and Penny Dolezal from Dolezal Honey Bees in rural Tama. Jim was interested in beekeeping for several years before buying his first bees about seven years ago. The Dolezals’ initial 10-hive venture produced a five-gallon bucket of honey. They have expanded their operation to over 100 hives in and around Tama County and typically harvest several thousand pounds of honey each year. Most of their off-site yards are in demand for pollination services, including a local apple orchard. They also manage hives for the Meskwaki Nation. Their beeswax is melted and Penny enjoys turning the wax from their operation into candles, soaps, lotions and other products. Dolezal honey and other items are available at local farmers markets throughout the summer and online. The Dolezals are members of the Iowa Honey Growers, and they founded and administer the Tama County Beekeepers. This group of local beekeepers benefits from peer-to-peer communication, the exchange of equipment, and the power of bulk input purchases. Jim mentored Iowa Honey Producers Fellows to pass on their craft to the next generation.
Our 2021 recipients were Mike and Gwen Seda from Fox Ridge Winery in rural Traer. The Sedas moved into their land in 1988. Two years later they started planting Christmas trees and planted and sold them until 2015. Mike and Gwen also planted fruit trees in 1996 and sold peaches for about five years. In 2004 they started planting grapes where there used to be an orchard. Vines were added for the next four years. Their winery and gift shop started in 2009. Mike and Gwen have been selling and making wine since then and have also expanded into wholesale sales to area stores. Entertainment is popular during the summer months and their venue is rented out for weddings and other special occasions. Both are “retirement” fulltime. Mike now manages their vineyard and Gwen manages Fox Ridge’s winery, gift shop and winemaker. According to the Sedas, “Since its creation [Fox Ridge] was a family winery. When it comes to planting, picking and processing grapes, everyone helps – from grandparents to grandchildren. With this concept, we have combined the pleasure of winemaking with our tradition of surrounding ourselves with family. The combination of these two aspects ensures that every drop in every bottle produced is a true labor of love. Mike and Gwen are members of Iowa Wine Growers and Central Iowa Tourism. Look for Fox Ridge wines, room service and gifts online. Stop by their place for a tasting or to enjoy a drink while relaxing on the Fox Ridge patio.
Soil Health Awards
This award was launched in 2014 when the District combined its traditional Conservation Tillage Award with the renewed concept of soil health, which involves many conservation practices that work together to make huge differences in our soil.
The 2020 recipients were Kurtis and Judy Boerm of Boerm Farms Inc. in Traer. For nearly 20 years, the Boerm operation has used cover crops in partnership with no-till and conservation tillage. Along with winter rye, forage hybrid sorghum was added to the family’s crop rotation ten years ago. According to Kurtis, “It makes excellent cow feed at half the cost of corn silage and with less fertilizer, nitrogen and herbicide requirements.” He also notes that manure from the farm’s cow-calf herd and feedlot is used in such a way that very little commercial fertilizer is needed, while maintaining soil fertility. Kurtis and Judy’s family continues the legacy of the farm that began when Kurtis’ great-grandfather purchased the property in 1907. Kurtis notes that he grew up working alongside his father, Lonnie, and his grandfather, Edwin. One of their stepdaughters gave the Boerms a plaque that said, “God looked at the earth he created and said, ‘I need a keeper,’ and so God made a farmer.” Kurtis says, “I watch it almost every day. It especially gives me strength after inland hurricanes or polar vortices during calving. Truer words have never been written. Kurtis is a well-known area veterinarian and Judy is the student success coach at North Tama Schools.
Our 2021 Soil Health Award winners were Sam and Julie Kvidera from Dysart Rural. Sam is the third generation of the Century Farm family. They grow corn and soybeans and feed cattle in a hoop-shaped building. Conservation practices on their operation include 30 years of no-till, terracing, filter strips, waterways and cover crops. Sam received a 2021 Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award. Alex Kubik of Traer submitted Sam’s nomination. “Sam grows a no-till corn-soybean rotation, planted on the contour. The covered feedlot prevents manure runoff and improves runoff water quality. Grassed streams protect against gully erosion and filter approximately 25% of sediment from water flowing downstream. CRP Stream Pads filter water and absorb nutrients before it reaches the stream. Terraces reduce runoff of sediment and nutrients from row crops. No-till and cover crops work together to strengthen soil structure, improve permeability, and make Sam’s row crops more resilient during stressful weather events. It reduces the use of commercial fertilizers and improves organic matter and biological diversity by using livestock manure.
Windbreaker price established
Our 2020 winners were George and DeVonne Harford from rural Traer. The Harfords have lived on their land in rural Traer for more than 22 years and replanted their windbreak after it was destroyed by the July 2011 derecho which devastated a strip in central Tama County. Their new spring 2012 planting consists of blue spruce from Norway, Black Hills and Colorado, as well as white pine and Techny Arborvitae. The Harford farm also includes an assortment of fruit and shade trees, caragana peas, lilacs and forsythia. DeVonne notes, “Whenever there is an opportunity, I will plant a tree. All George can say is that he is grateful to have a zero turn lawn mower. George and DeVonne provide seeds and water to the birds and have noticed an increase in the number of birds as their trees have grown. In the fall of 2020, the Harfords stopped over several migrating American kestrels (hawks) for about a week before departing. A squirrel also appears periodically. About four years ago, George planted his first vines. He now owns around fifty vines in five grape varieties. DeVonne says George’s wine just keeps getting better and he does enough to enjoy it and share it with friends.