ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY DON RATZLAFF
Soil conservation has deep roots in Warren Slocombe?s family. ?We live on the same farm where my parents started farming,? said Slocombe, who, along with his wife, Phyllis, were one of three winners of this year?s Banker Award in the Marion County Conservation District.
?My dad used conservation practices, and I saw how it saved the soil and improved it over the years,? said Slocombe, who farms about three and a half miles northeast of Peabody. ?That?s what got me involved in it.?
Slocombe?s father began farming on the home place in 1933 or 1934. Prior to that, Slocombe?s grandfather farmed northwest of Peabody.
?I think the first terraces he built were in the mid-40s,? Slocombe said of his father. ?He used to be on the county soil conservation board, and I just did the same thing he did.?
Slocombe has been farming on his own since 1961. He has a combination grain-and-livestock operation that includes growing wheat, milo and soybeans.
He used to have his own cow-calf herd, but shifted in recent years to a stocker-feeder focus that sees him feed between 100 and 150 calves in the fall and winter and then graze them into the summer.
Slocombe has been involved in conservation practices since he began farming. Recently he finished 420 feet of pipe outlets for some of the 25,424 feet of terraces. He outlets the rest into 8.6 acres of brome-grass waterways. He also put 23 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) 12 years ago and has kept it there.
?It was kind of a difficult piece of ground and we thought this would be best for it,? he says.
Slocombe?s conservation of the land contributes to both sides of his operation?grain and livestock, he says.
?In drier times, you can conserve water just a little better by having everything terraced, and with a livestock operation, in the winter you can graze residue and take advantage of the hay that you?ve grown and baled on the grass waterways,? he said. ?Also, they can graze on the grass in the winter.?
Slocombe admits that conservation can cost a farmer some convenience.
?It takes a little longer to plant on contour than if you were just going back and forth,? he says. ?But by planting on the contour with the terraces, it will slow the water down a little when you have a big rain, and conserve the soil.?
Conserving the soil is important to Slocombe. Of the 900 or so acres of crop land he farms, all but one quarter of land is fully terraced. And he hopes to get that piece in proper shape, too.
?I still have a little bit to complete,? he says. ?We rent some land at this point besides that which we own. Some of that doesn?t have very many conservation practices on it. I would like to do that someday if the owner would go along with it.?
That particular piece of ground is owned by an absentee landowner. But Slocombe says local landowners from whom he rents ground have been more than cooperative when it comes to conservation.
?The owners I rent from around here go along with everything I say because they believe in the same theory,? he says.
Slocombe is a strong advocate for conservation practices, even with the additional investment of resources and time it requires of the farmer.
?In the long run, it sure more than pays to complete all the conservation practices you can,? he says.
Slocombe appreciates the people like his father who still donate their time and effort to promote conservation in the county.
?I?m just grateful that we?ve had people who would serve on the local conservation board and who see the value of these different practices and try to make the (federal) money go as far as it can,? Slocombe says.