Mervin Deines may hold a Marion County record for farming the same place for 76 years.
That happens to be his age. He lives where he was born on 350th Road in the Ramona community, and he said, “I’ve been farming since I could start walking.”
Deines and wife Leona are Marion County Continuation Award winners for the Natural Resources Conservation Services.
Deines not only started building terraces and waterways early in his career, but has continued doing so—and has rebuilt them as necessary.
According to NRCS, Deines “started his farming career with soil conservation as a priority, building terraces and waterways. As his operation expanded, he continued to add conservation practices.
“He earned this award because he understands the need for water management tools, such as terraces and waterways, to stabilize eroding areas of his fields.
“Mervin also makes it a priority to maintain the existing terraces that he built in years past to keep them functioning as they were designed.”
Deines said even small things always need maintenance and change. For instance, no-tilling wheat may result in straw washing down to clog county culverts, requiring his family to clear it, he said.
“It washes down the terraces to plug up the outlets.”
He may disk straw in terraces to chop it up as a result.
The conservation and the entire farming operation are benefits both to him and his descendents, Deines said. And it keeps him young.
“I still feel like I’m 50,” he said.
His two sons, Jeff and Terry, work in the operation with him.
At least two grandsons indicate they may want to stay involved as adults, too.
“Jeff’s boy, Justin, is a junior in high school, and Terry’s boy, Dylan, is in eighth grade.”
The family keeps a beef herd of 220 mostly Angus cows, and backgrounds an annual 500 head of calves, both raised and purchased, to 850 to 900 pounds before selling the majority for feedlot finishing, he said.
“We did take some to the feedlot ourselves this year to see how they would play out,” he said. “You can’t hardly go wrong with cattle right now.”
Deines said both cattle and crop prices have been much-improved and good the past two years that it can make him wish he could tear up 90 to 100 acres of Conservation Reserve Program land that was planted for payment to idle as grass. But he also knows the farm economy will change.
His family keeps “mostly brome grass waterways,” and grows grain crops, alfalfa and wheat, “just about everything you can think of for here except cotton,” he said.
Deines said everything is always a balance of effort.
“You have to keep up with nature, and do what you can to keep from eroding the soil, but with the price of ground you also have to get the most out of it you can,” he said.
“If you don’t take care of it, one 5-inch rain can mess it up for you and everyone else.”