ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
When a family heirloom gets passed from generation to generation, those entrusted with caring for it take on the responsibility of making sure its integrity is preserved.
Duane and Linda Kaiser of Durham took over land that’s been in their family for nearly 100 years. Because of their diligence and hard work in preservation and conservation practices, the Kaisers are recipients of the Marion County 2003 Kansas Bankers Award for soil conservation sponsored by the Marion County Bankers Association and the Kansas Bankers Association.
“I’m the fourth generation to live on the farm where we currently live,” Duane said. “I’ve been farming and practicing conservation techniques since 1973.
“My father, grandfather and great-grandfather all practiced conservation, at least what was appropriate for the times and the years,” he added. “They were definitely conscious of conservation.”
Being a fourth-generation family farmer, Kaiser knows money spent on natural resource conservation is money well spent.
“All the money we’ve spent on conservation will be paid back to us because we’re saving so much of our top soil with these conservation practices,” Duane said. “We’re better able to protect our investments in our land by doing these thing to preserve the land we’re looking after.”
Kaiser said it’s easy to justify the hard work conservation takes.
“I’ve seen the benefits of conservation over the years and I also see the need for long term continuing conservation,” he said. “We have to preserve our soil and we have to be sure to pass the land along to whoever cares for it next, in good shape.”
Kaiser said a good conservation plan begins by contacting the Marion County Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“They’ve been very helpful as far as me establishing things and answering my questions,” Duane said. “The whole staff is really good and they’re all very knowledgeable.
“Most of them have been there for quite awhile and they’re all very well versed,” he added. “I would recommend to anyone who doesn’t use the NRCS to get involved and use their knowledge to help you establish your own conservation practices.”
Kaiser said his farming operation incorporates both no-till and minimum-till practices, which works nicely in conjunction with his conservation ideals.
“I think it’s (no-till and minimum till) a good way to save your soil also,” Duane said. “It’s really catching on and it works well in our overall goal to save our soil.”
While the Kaisers’ conservation efforts have been an ongoing project for several years, it’s a specific implementation of practices that have earned them the award.
Among their accomplishments are building 4.1 acres of waterways, 7,945 feet of terraces, 1,712 feet of diversion terraces, three acres of pasture planting, 104.7 acres of Conservation Reserve Program, and 21.1 acres of range seedings.
“Most of what I’ve put back to grass was marginal ground,” Kaiser said. “The cost of putting in terraces was just too high. There was grass right alongside of this ground, so it just made a lot of sense to put it back into grass.
“It was just more attractive as grass rather than farming a small strip.”
Kaiser said CRP is an attractive option for farmers and also in developing wildlife enhancements.
“I bought some ground that had CRP on it, so that’s really how I got started,” he said. “I’ve also done some seeding on my own-it has forbes on it for the wildlife.”
Kaiser also said his conservation practices aren’t limited to just the land he owns.
“Most of my landlords are really good,” he said. “If I see a need to improve something, they’ll usually go along with it.
“It’s really quite impressive to have a landlord who’s willing to work with conservation practices,” he added. “It really makes my job easier.”
Kaiser said landowners who live in cities don’t always realize the severity or the consequences of erosion.
“They see all the water running down the gutter after a rain (in town) and it’s clean and they don’t think a thing about it,” he said. “But those same rains cause runoff out in the country that’s muddy.
“That’s our soil washing away. That’s a good reason right there to have either residue, grass or terraces to save that soil that would be going down the creek.”
Kaiser said if all landlords would just step back and realize all the benefits conservation has, they’d probably all be on board.
“It’s a lot easier to farm the ground if you don’t have to keep healing up ditches,” he said. “In the long run, conservation puts money in their pockets, too, whether it helps me grow better crops or if they get a better price when they sell the ground.”
Plans call for additional terracing on the Kaiser ground.
“There’s always something I can be doing to improve our farm,” he said. “It just makes sense to conserve our resources. It really does justify itself.”
Kaiser said while he’s among many in the county that could be deserving of the award, it feels good to be one of those chosen to receive it.
“It’s really an honor to win this award,” he said. “Our farm has been in our family for almost 100 years and I’d sure like to pass it on to the next generation in as good or better shape than when we got it.
“It’s an ongoing deal. I think my operation speaks for itself as far as how we take care of our ground,” he said. “Conservation is a good tool and a good investment.”