CELEBRATE CONSERVATION: Sudermans cutting back on acres, but not on conservation

Paul Suderman may be cutting back a bit on his farming operation now that he?s reached the age of 73, but not on his commitment to soil conservation practices.

For the strength of their commitment over nearly five decades of farming, Paul and Elda Suderman are being honored with a Banker Award this year by the Marion County Conservation District.

Paul says he is gratified not so much by the award itself, but what it signals to farmers like him.

?It tells me the government honors people who work for conservation, which is a very good thing to do,? he says.

?When we think of the high loss of topsoil, which is something we can?t replace, and if we can do something to avoid that, that?s noteworthy,? he adds. ?I just think it?s a good thing to do.?

The Sudermans, who farm about four miles south of Hillsboro, have installed 20.5 acres of grass waterways to use as outlets for 22,845 feet of terraces so far. They also enrolled 20 acres of land into the Conservation Reserve Program.

Until last summer, Suderman farmed around 900 acres. He has since let go of about 450 acres of rented ground, but plans to continue working on the remaining 450 acres he owns.

?At 73, I feel I can cut back a little bit and use farming as a hobby rather than as an occupation,? he says.

?After all, there isn?t that much high profit margin in farming. And a hobby isn?t exactly supposed to raise a lot of money. So that?s probably the best thing I can do.?

Suderman got involved in soil conservation about 15 to 20 years ago.

?One of the things is that people want to leave their property in better shape than when they go it,? he says.

Currently, a little over half of the land he farms is in terraces and waterways. He?s also committed to the acres he?s enrolled in the CRP program.

?I never want to turn that back into farmland even though the program will probably run its course eventually,? he says. ?Whether you get it renewed depends on the wildlife habitat. But even if it wasn?t renewed, I?d probably just hay it and leave it in grass.?

His CRP ground is otherwise highly erodible and, at this stage in his farming career, he doesn?t think he?ll invest time and resources in adding terraces and waterways.

As much as he would recommend soil conservation practices to other farmers, Suderman says the government makes it almost mandatory for most.

?If the land is labeled as ?high erodible,? you cannot get government payments (unless it is terraced),? he said. ?I suppose by now most farmers have taken some measures because their payments would be cut off.?

Suderman sees no-til farming, where crops are planted with a minimum of field work, as another viable way younger farmers can consider to save their soil run-off.

?If that doesn?t work, a person should probably use waterways and terraces,? he says.

Suderman says he knows he?s nearing the end of his farming career, but if he got the chance to start his life over, he?d still chose that way of life.

?Even though it?s very busy, it?s somewhat seasonal,? he says. ?You can let up a little bit and don?t have to push yourself and be highly stressed all the time.

?I think a lot of farmers enjoy it because basically they?re their own boss,? Suderman says.

But he adds: ?With government regulations, though, that isn?t entirely true either because you have a lot of paper work to keep up with, even on a small operation.?

Suderman says he?s content to continue his ?hobby? farming as he has in the past and not try to keep up with the growing sophistication of farm technology.

?The technology these days is really something, and it takes a pretty educated person to keep up with it,? he says. ?But I certainly have not been sorry I got involved in farming.?

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