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Milwaukee River Watershed Clean Farm Families

Milwaukee River Watershed Clean Farm Families

The Milwaukee River Watershed Clean Farm Families group was formed in 2016 and initially included the Milwaukee River watershed as the project area. The group expanded in 2021 to include all of Ozaukee County except for the Cedar Creek Watershed, which is covered by the Cedar Creek Farmers Producer-led group.

This spring Clean Farm Families hosted a no-till-planter preparation clinic. Fifty-five attendees heard speaker Joe Condon of Prospect Ag Services in Horicon.

Clean Farm Families has established a 35-acre soil-health and cover-crop demonstration site 1.5 miles south of Fredonia, adjacent to Wisconsin Highway 57. The site will enable visitors to compare plots with no-till and cover crops to plots with tillage and no cover crops. Emphasis is placed on achieving healthy soils. Information is collected on crop yield, input costs, changes in physical and chemical soil properties, erosion and runoff. The goal for the demonstration site is to show that no-till along with cover crops work in an area with heavy clay soils and cool Lake Michigan temperatures.

Several soil-temperature data loggers were installed this spring to compare soil temperatures from plots with no-till and cover crops to plots with tillage and no cover crops. We plan to have economic data later to show profitability comparisons.

We held a pop-up field day Apr. 27, which featured a reduced-disturbance manure applicator built by Eisentraut Ag Services of Waldo. Dairy manure was applied at a rate of about 9,000 gallons per acre into a cereal-rye cover crop on land farmed by Paulus Dairy of Fredonia. Following injection of manure, the rye will be allowed to grow, sequester nutrients and then be harvested as a forage.

Cover crops that were interseeded in 2020 wintered well and look nice in 2021. We used a seed mix – 10 pounds of annual ryegrass, 3 pounds of medium red clover, 2.5 pounds of hairy vetch, .5 pound of kale and .5 pound of rapeseed – which we obtained from Marty Weiss of the Dodge County Progressive Farmers.

Clean Farm Families recently began partnering with the UW-Wisconsin On-Farm Research Network. We’re working with Anne Pfeiffer, program manager, and Erin Silva, an organic and sustainable-cropping-systems specialist at UW-Madison, to evaluate cover-crop seed mixes interseeded into corn. The various seed mixes will be interseeded when the corn is at about the V3 stage using the Ozaukee County interseeder planter, which was purchased with funds from the Fund for Lake Michigan and Ozaukee County. Participating in the project are the Roden Echo Valley Farm, Dan Jacque, Matt Winker and the Clean Farm Families demonstration plot.

In addition to the Clean Farm Families, the group’s farmer members partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2018 to create the “Ozaukee County Demonstration Farm Network.” The network is comprised of Melichar Broad Acres – Jim and Sheri Melichar with Adam and Kendall Melichar; Red-Line Dairy – Matt and Sarah Winker; Lake Breeze Farms – Roger and Brian Karrels; and Joe Lapinski.

The farms also are involved with Clean Farm Families so there’s a lot of partnering between the two groups. Most field days and workshops involve both groups.

The Clean Farm Families is again offering conservation-practice incentives. Visit cleanfarmfamilies.com for more information.

Andy Holschbach is the director of the Ozaukee County Land & Water Management Department.

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