Randy and Denise Eddy

Randy and Denise Eddy of Centerville, Iowa, were named 2018 Environmental Stewardship Award winners by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. The couple has converted 250 to 300 acres from marginal crop ground into hay and pasture production.

CENTERVILLE, Iowa — Randy Eddy bucked the trend of converting pasture to crop ground a few years ago. Instead, he converted marginal crop ground into more pasture acres.

“That was something we felt strongly about,” Eddy says. “It was the best decision for us.”

Eddy was named the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Award winner by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

Eddy and his wife Denise farm in Appanoose County, Iowa. They have a commercial Angus-based cow herd, using about 600 acres. The Eddys rent out their crop ground.

From 2007 to 2012, about one fifth of Iowa’s pasture acres were converted into row crop production, according to information from the ICA. Over that period,

Eddy converted 250 to 300 acres from crop ground into hay and pasture production.

He says the pasture was initially seeded to alfalfa then transitioned into pasture as Eddy seeded other grasses and legumes.

“We have bluegrass and a little bit of everything, like brome and fescue,” he says, adding pastures are sprayed to help control multiflora rose and musk thistles.

Eddy has a rotational grazing system, but most paddocks run in the 40-acre range.

“We don’t intensely graze it like most,” he says. “We’re kind of in deer heaven here, and they got into the electric fence and messed it up. So we went this route instead.”

One of his bigger projects was to reclaim strip mines used to produce sand.

“That was a chore, but definitely worth the time,” Eddy says.

When he feeds hay, he rolls out bales to keep manure from becoming concentrated and fertilize the whole pasture, Eddy says.

Switchgrass was also seeded to help provide wildlife habitat.

“There’s nothing better to me than hearing the turkeys gobble or see a bald eagle flying over our ground,” Eddy says. “It’s important to me that wildlife have a place like this.”

He says pheasant, quail, deer, wild turkey and river otters also enjoy the standing switchgrass and food plots.

Eddy also encourages milkweed growth in the switchgrass stands to provide habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. Three large, natural beehives can also be found on Eddy’s farm.

The switchgrass is also grazed and used for hay production. All the hay Eddy uses is produced on his southeast Iowa farm.

Eddy says he expects to continue to add newer conservation technologies to improve the farm. He currently has several terraces and ponds.

“I don’t know that a guy is ever completely satisfied, but everything costs money so you have to do a little at a time,” he says. “I’d like to put in more ponds, and we always keep an eye on Iowa State to see what they are working on. We are always willing to try something new.”

Eddy says flexibility is important with any type of operation.

“You have to be willing to change what you are doing, whether it’s the economy or the weather driving the change,” he says. “If you can’t be flexible, you are probably going to run into trouble.”

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.