Soil Conservation Award Winners for 2017

Making improvements, not just maintaining

Continuation award

Charles D. and Catherine DeForest were honored for the many years of improving their level of conservation on their land.
Charles D. and Catherine DeForest were honored for the many years of improving their level of conservation on their land.
Charles D. and Catherine DeForest are the recipients of this year’s Continuation Award. They previously won the Soil Conserva­tion Award in 2002 for work done across their farm.

Since that time, Chuck and Cathy have not only maintained their conservation systems, but improved upon them while implementing additional systems on other pieces of land.

In recent years they have installed terraces, waterways, underground outlets, land smoothing and diversions.

They have converted several patches of cropland to grass, resulting in improvements in soil health and improved water quality through buffers.

They have spent many years improving their level of conservation on their land and continue to do so.


Oborny family focuses on cleaner surface waters

Banker Award

The Oborny family wanted to improve the water and soil resources without hindering their ability to farm the land.
The Oborny family wanted to improve the water and soil resources without hindering their ability to farm the land.
Dan and Kim Oborny are recipients of the Kansas Bank­er’s Association Water Quality Conservation Award for their work to reduce sediment, turbidity and nutrients in the surface waters leaving their farm.

Dan and Kim had noticed rills and small gullies forming after larger rain events, and were concerned about the loss of their soil and the effect erosion had on the water. They contacted the soil conservation office for assistance in developing the conservation system they wanted with the goals of improving the water and soil resources without hindering their ability to farm the tract.

In the end, the Obornys have developed and implemented a plan to install grassed waterways and gullies while keeping the ability to plant and harvest straight rows and utilize no-till with a diverse selection of crops to hold the soil in place and capture more water in the soil, reducing runoff.


Rziha family improves grassland efficiency

Grassland Award

David and Catarina Rziha, shown here with their children, had converted a large portion of their cattle herd to a rotational grazing system in an effort to improve the harvest efficiency of the herd and improve the grass. That’s one reason they were chosen for the Grassland Conservation Award this year.
David and Catarina Rziha, shown here with their children, had converted a large portion of their cattle herd to a rotational grazing system in an effort to improve the harvest efficiency of the herd and improve the grass. That’s one reason they were chosen for the Grassland Conservation Award this year.
David and Catarina Rziha are the 2017 recipients of the Grassland Conservation Award. They have worked to achieve their goals of efficient use of the grass and quality grains on their cattle with minimum feed and supplemental costs.

David and Catarina began with a half-section of grass, converting to paddock grazing in an effort to improve the harvest efficiency of the herd and improve the grass.

The gains they saw with their system were encouraging, so they expanded it to several other pastures with continued benefits.

By 2016, the Rzihas had converted a large portion of their herd to a rotational grazing system with intensive grazing for a short duration followed by long periods of rest for the grasses.

Their grasses have responded with improved vigor and production across their operation.

In an effort to further enhance their guesses and rotation options, David and Catarina have installed multiple watering systems, including tire tanks, frost-free waters and storage tanks.

They have installed miles of pipeline along with water wells and solar pumps to provide water for their herds as they move from paddock to paddock.

The Rzihas have performed brush management on most of their pastures, removing nearly all of the trees encroaching on the uplands and restoring the open prairie environment. They continue to develop and adjust their systems to make improvements to both their herd and grasslands.


Gann family embraces the conservation ethic

Young Farmer Award

Over the past few years, the Gann family has made improvements on both range and cropland with reductions in erosion and improvements in grazing, removing invasive trees, nurturing soil health and enhancing wildlife habitat.
Over the past few years, the Gann family has made improvements on both range and cropland with reductions in erosion and improvements in grazing, removing invasive trees, nurturing soil health and enhancing wildlife habitat.
Chasen and Ashlee Gann are the recipients of the 2017 Young Farmer Award. Chase and Ashlee began farming in 2011 when they came back to Lehigh to manage the family farm.

Since that time, they have expanded the operation, including the addition of their own land.

The Ganns have embraced the conservation ethic on their land in many ways. In the past few years, they have made improvements on both range and cropland with reductions in erosion, improvements in grazing management, removal of invading trees, improvements in soil health and enhancement of wildlife habitat.

Chasen and Ashlee continue to expand their projects to improve the habitat of the greater prairie chicken.


Land owner, operator work in tandem

Kansas Bankers Association Soil Conservation Award

Glen’s use of cattle to graze the cover crop allows him to see at least some economic returns directly from the cover while getting the residues knocked down and in contact with the soil, where they do the most good.
Glen’s use of cattle to graze the cover crop allows him to see at least some economic returns directly from the cover while getting the residues knocked down and in contact with the soil, where they do the most good.
David Wiens, owner, and Glen Ensz, operator, are co-recipients of the Kansas Bankers Association Soil Conservation Award.

Over the years, David and Glen have worked together to develop a system of structural and management conservation practices that conserve the resources of the land.

As the owner of the land, David has taken on the role of installing the structural practices to handle runoff and prevent erosion. He has installed a diverse mix of structural practices, including grassed waterways, terraces and tile outlets to ensure that water gets to the bottom of the hill without taking a bunch of soil with it.

Glen has developed a management system that benefits both the farmer and land and implemented it on this ground. Glen utilizes a no-till system with an intensive crop rotation and a range of cover crops to build the soil. He has succeeded in increasing the water infiltration rates, increasing the residue cover and reducing runoff from the fields.

Glen’s use of cattle to graze the cover crop allows him to see at least some economic returns directly from the cover while getting the residues knocked down and in contact with the soil, where they do the most good.


The profiles of the 2017 conservation award winners, plus the photos, were written and gathered by Matt Meyerhoff, supervisory district conservationist, and Betty Richmond, office assistant.