Continuation Award: Past work won’t stop Voths from planning additional projects


Lester and Lois Voth of Newton became involved in conservation soon after Lester started his own operation in 1968.

Just because Lester and Lois Voth are the soil conservation Continuation Award winners this year doesn?t mean they won?t continue with new projects.

Lester Voth said he has more terraces planned this year, and the minimum tillage he has begun shows a slow but continuing improvement of the soil.

Voth began farming with his parents, Ben and Marie Voth, both deceased, and started his own operation in 1968.

Almost right away, he and Lois started their soil conservation program with construction of waterways in 1969. They added terraces as soon as the waterways became sodded with brome grass, and contour farmed to keep them in good condition.

The Voths are cited in the award for caring for the waterways and terraces so they still function properly today. They added more terraces last year.

They also maintain 25 acres of Conservation Reserve Program ground in native grass.

Even though Lester Voth quit keeping a beef cow-calf herd and feeder calves nearly 10 years ago, and leases his grazing land, he continues to improve his native pasture.

He hired a person with blades mounted on a skid loader to cut invasive hedge trees out of the pasture at ground level, and treated them with Crossbow herbicide for a complete kill.

Voth said it becomes almost impossible for an individual to keep up with removing problem trees by hand cutting or using a chain saw.

?I did do the piling and burning though,? he said.

Voth had a pit pond dug in a drainage area two years ago with a depth of 12 feet to help retain water during dry periods.

?The water is adequate for the cattle now,? he said. ?I used to have to haul water for them during droughts.?

Voth said he believes in leaving good water conservation and soil-building measures for posterity.

The Voths? daughters, Eunice Nickel, 24, who married a fellow member of the community, Kenton Nickel, and became a teacher in Newton, and Brittany, 20, a junior at Bethel College, are unlikely to want to continue the family farm operation, Lester said.

Still, he likes to continue with measures that build the soil. With the cattle gone, Voth no longer grows feed grains. But with the wheat and soybeans he still grows he has turned to no-till and strip tilling in the past 10 years.

He hardly sees why any farmer wouldn?t want to turn toward less tillage.

?It saves the soil, it saves labor, and it saves a lot of fuel,? Voth said. ?It does a lot of good.?

He said the soil improves gradually and subtly.

?You can see it happening over the years.?

Voth uses a no-till drill and a regular planter with a blade in front to loosen the soil for planting. He tries to leave as much cover on ground as possible, and won?t do practices like burning wheat stubble.

Voth?s ideas of future service have also included serving on the Soil Conservation Service board from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s.

?The people who have worked for the SCS have really helped me,? Voth said. ?They?ve always done well. I have enjoyed their work, and the good job they have done. I appreciate it.?

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