CONTINUATION AWARD- Slocombes want to leave land better for future

When Warren Slocombe came home to the Peabody area between semesters of college from Kansas State in the mid-1950s, his father, Vernon, offered to give him a start in farming by letting him take over the quarter-section across the road from the home place in exchange for labor.

That began a 50-year farming career for Warren and wife Phyllis that ended with retirement last year. But their commitment to conservation hasn’t ended. That’s why they are being awarded the 2006 Continuation Award, a recognition of their lifelong commitment to conservation.

Asked if he feels the commitment to conservation both in terms of stewardship to the land and for profitability, Slocombe replied: “You bet. That land will be there for somebody after me, and I want to leave it in the best condition it can be.”

Probably it won’t be for his own children, since none wanted to return to farm. But Slocombe said others will be interested. His current tenant is Duane Kirkpatrick of Marion, an old friend and former neighbor who has added no-till practices to the operation for further improvement.

Slocombe said conservation measures such as terracing stop erosion, and slow water down so more of it soaks in instead of running off.

“That increases crop yields,” he said. “I think it’s always important to continue to upgrade to the latest options we have available to improve farming.”

Slocombe’s efforts have extended from the 450 acres he and Phyllis owned to include most of the 1,000 acres they eventually farmed when rented land was included.

Even though Slocombe knew he was going to retire, he continued improvements, adding Conservation Reserve Program native grass field borders next to some hedgerows for wildlife benefits. He also added terraces just to the northeast of his house last year. A grass waterway is planned for 2007.

He said the farm even includes terraces staked by the conservation office in the mid-1940s that empty into a pasture, and are maintained with correct tillage for productivity to this day.

Slocombe said his farm operation has usually included the mix of crops typical to the area, like wheat, soybeans, grain sorghum and alfalfa, but he phased out the livestock production that once went with the crops.

At one time, he had a herd of 100 Angus/Hereford cows, and fed the calf crop out. He also had sows and sold feeder pigs. When he sold the cow herd 10 years ago, he began buying backgrounding calves, feeding them, then selling them off grass as feeders.

Slocombe said he began farming with his father when they still used horses, and he has seen many changes in technology over the years and living style over the years.

He does wonder what will be next. But he also feels a deep satisfaction in knowing he has taken care of what he had.

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