Andy Vanderloop’s 120-acre property in Greenleaf, Wisconsin, has been in his family since the early 1900s. The property is dominated by 100 acres of rocky forestland, with the remaining 20 acres in cropland. Vanderloop’s grandfather grazed beef cows in the woods in the early 1900s. He also operated a business as a cattle purchaser. When Andy Vanderloop’s father operated the family farm he didn’t use the woods as much. Instead he focused on producing hay.

Andy Vanderloop has lived and worked away from the family farm, but he has always had a close connection to the land. He recently moved to live on the property with hopes of managing the land in a more natural way while also earning some income. He learned about opportunities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service while attending a woodland-owner’s workshop. After the workshop he contacted his local USDA Service Center to see about programs that could help him achieve his goals.

“To be honest I was skeptical about inviting agency staff to my property; I wondered if they’d be critical of how I currently manage my land,” he said. “But once I walked the land with them and learned from them, I realized they were in the business to help.”

Vanderloop wanted to manage his land properly but said he was concerned about the expense of applying some of those management practices. Ryan Jacques, a soil conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Wisconsin’s Brown County, had visited Vanderloop’s farm in spring 2019. Jacques explained what Vanderloop could do through the agency’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

“I can see how passionate Andy is about managing his land for wildlife and how much he wants to do the right thing for the land,” Jacques said.

Vanderloop’s forestland had been in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Managed Forest Law tax-incentive program for 50 years and that 50-year contract was ending. Vanderloop’s woodland had been managed to maintain diverse and robust stands of timber.

He wanted to continue to make good decisions for the woods but said he was concerned about making decisions without a forester’s guidance. With incentives from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program he was able to obtain a forest-management plan. He also plans to use the updated plan to re-enroll forestland in the DNR’s program.

Vanderloop also is in the first year of the Conservation Stewardship Program for both his forest and agricultural land. As part of those contracts he'll convert 15.3 acres of cropland to monarch-butterfly habitat. He’ll establish a flower and milkweed seed mixture containing more than 15 species.

He’ll establish a similar mix to provide habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects in the wooded area. He’ll also plant a patch of trees and shrubs to provide food and cover for a variety of wildlife species.

Vanderloop has periodically planted pine trees near field edges to make them more visually appealing and to create a screen from the road. He is now looking to add more to the land and completely replace the row crops.

During site visits with the Natural Resources Conservation Service he learned about invasive species present on his land. He learned how to identify and also how to control them.

He said he’s grateful for the technical and financial support he has received, and is excited to continue working in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the next five years. Visit nrcs.usda.gov and click on the "State Websites" tab and then the link for Wisconsin for more information.