A Helping Hand on Public Land
1978, feels the real benefit to farming on conservation areas comes from being able to do extra work on the areas to offset some of the contract costs. Butch regularly plants food plots and sprays and disks fields to reduce his annual payment.
“The extra work really helps me with my cash flow at certain times of the year,” he said. “It’s just a good tradeoff. I benefit and the Department benefits.
Butch’s helper, George Burre, said he likes the fact that there are so many people hunting, fishing or just enjoying the conservation areas.
“When I’m on the area, people always ask me where to deer or quail hunt,” he said.
Farming for Ducks
At Grand Pass Conservation Area in northwest Saline County, three permittee farmers are helping the Conservation Department manage the area for all sorts of wildlife, but primarily for waterfowl and other migratory species.
Travis and Hoss Matthews from Norborne have been farming about 360 acres on the area since 2004, when they learned about the contract ground in the local newspaper. The Matthews brothers farm an additional 5,500 acres along the Missouri River.
Travis says it was a challenge to figure out how to bid on the extra work in the contract, but it’s definitely worth it. “Leaving the unharvested grain and planting food plots really helps us get down the cash rent we owe,” he explained.
Marty Bryan has been farming on Grand Pass since the early 1980s, and his dad farmed the area before then. Marty and his family are from the Marshall area and farm about 2,000 acres in Saline County. They also run a fertilizer-spreading and grain-elevator business, or as Marty says, “a little bit of everything.”
This year, Marty planted about 780 acres of corn and soybeans on the Grand Pass area. He also planted sunflower and food plots as a part of his contract. He said timing is everything at a wetland area.
“In the spring, we have to get the sunflowers in early enough so they will be ready by dove season,” he said. “In the fall, we have to get our crops out early enough so the guys can start flooding the fields for the ducks. Sometimes it can get pretty hectic around here, but we can always call the guys if we have questions.”
By “the guys,” Travis means wildlife management biologist Chris Freeman and wildlife biologist Robert Henry. During the fall harvest, Robert often rides in