Blending Farming and Conservation
efficient and environmentally sound. Hundreds of native trees were planted around the hog barns, forming windbreak to capture and divert odor from the barns. A fertilizing system uses GPS and previous soil sample tests to feed precisely controlled nutrients that correspond with the soil’s changing needs across each field. Additionally, equipment upgrades allow the Oettings to more accurately apply lagoon effluent from the hog operation as a natural crop fertilizer.
The majority of the Oetting’s conservation practices have been funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Local USDA staff from NRCS and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) helped the Oettings install field buffers through the Conservation Reserve Program. These buffers were planted to either wildlife friendly native grasses or native tree species to provide wildlife cover, reduce soil erosion and protect water quality. Over the years, the Oettings have planted nearly 10,000 trees and more than 35 acres of native grass buffers. The Oettings receive annual rental payments for taking these environmentally sensitive areas out of production, making the conservation practices pay their way for the farming operation.
The Oettings completed management practices serve to protect and improve the natural resources for future generations while adding to the farm’s bottom line. The farm is an example of how a successful production agriculture operation can thrive, while also incorporating land stewardship practices.
Steve and Sharon sum it up best: “In our day-to-day operations, we don’t believe that we have ever made a conscious effort to be environmental stewards, but rather that it is something that has been instilled in our hearts, our minds and our production practices in being responsible workers of the land.”
Restoring prairie ecosystems requires collaboration between state agencies and local residents. In Harrison County, 30,000 acres have been designated as a focus area for tallgrass prairie protection and restoration. This area is commonly known as the Grand River Grassland Conservation Opportunity Area. With Dunn Ranch and Pawnee Prairie near the center, the geography has special significance.
Within this grassland, Missouri conservationists are working to restore populations of the greater prairie chicken. Hundreds of thousands of these birds once populated Missouri, but those numbers have dwindled to the hundreds. The relentless loss of prairie, the introduction of tall fescue and the encroachment of trees added to losses of prairie chicken populations. About 93 percent of their original range is now gone.
In response, several conservation organizations