Svitaks pass to sons significance of soil protection

George Svitak started his farming career before he graduated from high school in 1948.

“I started a little bit before that because my dad went to work for Boeing,” Svitak said. “It seems like I’ve farmed all my life.”

Over the years, Svitak has witnessed many changes in equipment, practices and technology in the farming arena, but one thing Svitak has remained constant about is the need to conserve natural resources.

“My grand-dad bought this ground and our family has had it ever since,” Svitak said. “I’m sure grand-dad would be floored to see all the conservation measures that people are using today.”

Svitak is among those taking advantages of those measures to the degree that he and wife Charlene have been named winners of the 2005 Bankers Award sponsored by the Marion County Bankers Association and the Kansas Bankers Association.

Svitak recently completed 4.2 acres of waterways and 9,500 feet of terraces on his property.

An additional 157 acres of Svitak land are enrolled in CRP while 2.5 acres are seeded to CRP grass filter strips.

“I saw the ground washing away and knew something needed to be done,” Svitak said. “Some of this ground has been washing all its life, so it was time to have something done.”

Born and raised near Pilsen, Svitak said he’s pleased to see his ground is stable and no longer subject to erosion.

“I can really tell how much these practices have made a difference with my ground no longer washing away,” he said. “There aren’t near as many ditches anymore.”

Svitak is proud that his three sons also realize the importance of conserving natural resources.

Son Doug currently works as a conservation technician with the NRCS in Marion while Randy is in the oil and hay business. But George said “(Randy) does put an importance on conservation on his ground,” which is farmed by George’s grandson, Shane.

George and Charlene’s son Todd was killed in an automobile accident last year.

Many of Svitak’s 9,500 feet of terraces are parallel, which maked farming the ground much easier.

Svitak said it’s easy to see the effect conservation has on his soil retention, but other rewards aren’t as readily recognizable.

“As far as yields and how much difference the conservation has made, it’s hard to judge because you have the difference in weather,” he said. “You have a lot of other factors that make it difficult to compare.”

Svitak said his participation in Conservation Reserve Program has been a nice way to preserve his soil while also preserving his pocketbook.

“I originally got interested in CRP to help hold the ground from washing and the payments made it a lot more attractive,” he said. “It just made sense to start taking money out of that ground rather than spend a lot more for waterways and terraces.”

Svitak’s original contract was entered in 1988 and has since been renewed.

Svitak said another benefit of CRP is the wildlife habitat it creates, at least for those people interested in such a thing.

“I’m not a big one for wildlife,” Svitak said with a chuckle. “About the only thing I have to do with wildlife is to dodge them when they come across the road.”

His venture into filter strips is relatively new, but Svitak said he’s hopeful the program will be successful.

“I just got them planted last year and they’re supposed to hold the ground during high water,” he said. “The grass isn’t really established yet though to see if they’re really going to work.”

While Svitak receives no added benefits from having a son working for the local NRCS, he does benefit from his Doug’s knowledge of conservation.

“He helps me drive a truck during harvest and that allows him to see the ground a little bit better,” Svitak said. “He’s pointed out a lot of things that need to be done and advised us of some of the advantages of the programs.”

Keeping his family’s farm ground in conservation compliance has been the sole responsibility of his dad, according to Doug.

“Dale (Ehlers) and Gary (Schuler) have worked extensively with dad for years,” Doug said. “It’s been an ongoing process for dad even before I started working for the conservation service.

“Dad is following the rules and guidelines of NRCS to protect his land from erosion,” Doug added. “To get the Bankers Award, you have to pretty much have most of your practices completed on your ground, so he’s been working at this for quite some time.”

For George Svitak, those who wonder if they need conservation practices need to look at their ditches and fields following a big rain event.

“When you drive by and see a lot of these fields washing, you know the owners ought to be thinking about doing some conservation work,” he said. “I think conservation really pays off.”

While Svitak said he’s is honnored to win the Bankers Award , he down plays his recognition.

“I didn’t really care about winning this award much because I’m not one for bragging,” he said.

But Doug, with his extensive involvement in the soil conservation office, knows the award is a just reward for the years of diligent work his father has endured.

“Dad doesn’t like to be in the limelight,” Doug said. “But as a son, I’m proud that Dad is being recognized with the award.

“It’s something I believe in and it’s something I’d hope everyone would work toward, and do the conservation work to help our environment.”

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