ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Steve Bartel says that, given the rolling terrain of the land he farms northwest of Hillsboro, soil conservation practices such as terraces and waterways are almost mandatory.
“This is just kind of the way we do it,” he said. “We’re farming the hills.”
For his efforts in that area, Bartel, who has been farming on his own since 1994, has been named the winner of this year’s “Young Conservation Farmer Award.”
Bartel said he was “pretty shocked” to be recognized in that way.
“I didn’t even know I was up for it,” he said about the award. “I guess I never thought about it before.”
Bartel said he may have been singled out because of his recent efforts to add terraces and waterways to an 80-acre piece of ground he and his wife, Jeanie, had purchased in the recent past.
“This was the first piece of ground we owned outright,” Bartel said. “We put terraces and waterways in it right away.
“This ground wasn’t required to go into terraces by the government,” he added. “I spent the money even though it wasn’t required.”
His decision to do so is simply an outgrowth of his commitment to soil conservation by reducing run-off after big rains.
“I just don’t like to see the ditches and the dirt run away,” he said.
Besides the preservation of topsoil, Bartel sees long-range economic benefits of implementing conservation practices.
“With less run-off, it keeps the money you spend on fertilizer and seed right there instead of letting it run away,” he said.
Steve and Jeanie have completed 3.4 acres of waterways and 2,464 feet of terraces. In all, they farm about 600 acres for themselves and take in 4,000 to 5,000 acres more through their custom-farming enterprise.
“That’s mainly what I do,” he said of the custom farming. “That’s what makes the money for us. The farming (for themselves) doesn’t.”
Most of the acres Bartel farms are no-till. This past year, he converted the acres in their personal operation into no-till, too. Though he tore it up again this fall because of some problems, he remains committed to the notion.
“We’re trying to get the no-till to work for us,” he said.
Steve and Jeanie are the third or fourth generation of Bartels to farm in the area.