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Demonstration Farms

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Published on: Jul. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

the land. A good land steward will care for all aspects of the land, not just a single resource, such as timber or soil.

The owners of demonstration farms are usually busy with a variety of conservation practices. Demonstration farms in different counties show problems and possible solutions, and no two counties are exactly alike.

What kind of person would allow groups of strangers to visit their land? The kind who has a genuine concern for the land and its natural resources--a demonstration farmer.

"I was born on a dilapidated hillside," says Brode, "and said if I ever got something, I'd leave it better than I found it."

Some demonstration farmers have owned and worked the land for years, while others have just purchased the land after retirement. What they all have in common is their willingness to educate other landowners by opening their land to visitors and sharing their story of working with the land.

Dick Myers, a college professor before retiring, says becoming a demonstration farmer was a natural thing to do. "It goes back to our interest in education," he says.

Spreading the word from one landowner to another is where demonstration farms are so useful. Unfortunately, only 38 percent of forest landowners realize there is free forest management assistance available to them. Many just don't know what management options are available.

"We wanted to demonstrate what is possible in this area with grassland," says Myers. Teamwork between the Conservation Department and other agencies, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, helps landowners know where they can go with questions.

Each agency also has a variety of programs to help landowners with the cost of implementing a conservation practice. "One of the most heartening things is the support we've gotten from the Conservation Department," says Myers.

Tours of a demonstration farm usually have three parts. First, the host landowner shares why and how they decided to get assistance in managing their land, and they explain how different conservation practices have worked to either solve a problem or make the farm more productive. Second, the group travels to see each practice on the farm, while the host or agency employee explains why it was needed and how it was accomplished. Third, a free lunch is part of the demonstration tour and gives everyone a chance to discuss what they have seen and heard during the day.

"I heard several different ideas

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