Leroy Ten Barge says you don?t have to be a big farmer to receive benefits from soil conservation.

?I?m not a very big farmer?I?ve got some cows and some wheat and milo,? he says. ?But I?ve always seen a need for (conservation practices). You?ve got to take care of the ground or it?s going to ruin it.?

Ten Barge and his wife, Joan, farm about 450 acres about four and one-half miles north of Walton. A little more than 200 acres is tillable ground and the rest is pasture and in the Conservation Reserve Program. Almost all of the tillable ground is terraced.

?Our land is really on loan to us and we are the caretakers,? Ten Barge says. ?Conservation is an ongoing process for which we are responsible.?

During the 20 years the Ten Barges have been farming, they have constructed 11,267 feet of terraces and 1,260 feet of diversion terraces. They?ve also built 1.5 acres of waterways, installed 725 feet of pipe for tile outlets, planted five acres of brome grass and enrolled 79 acres in CRP.

For their efforts, the Ten Barges are one of three couples to win the Banker?s Award this year from the Marion County Conservation District.

Leroy says the need for conservation practices is readily apparent?and so are the benefits.

?You can tell right away,? he says. ?You aren?t getting any washouts all over and you?re saving topsoil. It just doesn?t wash.?

He advises other farmers to consider the benefits if they haven?t already.

?It will save the ground,? he says. ?Some of this highly erodible ground will just go to waste if they aren?t using conservation programs. If you let it wash, you?re going to lose all the topsoil.?

Though conservation practices require an invest of time and resources, the investment will pay off in the present as well as the future, Ten Barge says.

?It will definitely make the ground worth more,? he says.

The Ten Barge children are all grown and none are in a position to take over the farm. Ten Barge says he and his wife will keep working the land for as long as they can, and then probably rent the ground to someone else when they retire.

Even so, as a farmer and a landowner he will always maintain a keen interest in conservation.

?I just like to keep on top of things like that,? he says. ?You just about have to. You?ve got to get involved or you?re not going to be in there for very long.?

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