What are you doing to practice and promote soil and water quality?
I’m a fifth generation Iowan, but a few generations removed from the farm. My family, including my husband and two sons live in rural Washington County in the Riverside community. My husband and I own a hunting outfitter, and a land management business. I also serve as Soil Commissioner and work full-time in the natural resources/agriculture field for over 15 years. Currently, I am employed at the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa. We just wrapped up a major state-wide project called the Iowa Watershed Approach. This six-year program focused on flood mitigation, water quality improvement, and flood resilience efforts in nine different Iowa watersheds. Many positive impacts to people and our landscape were achieved through this program leaving a lasting impression for future generations. Much of my personal and professional life is focused on conservation implementation and educating varied audiences on nature-based solutions to address water resource challenges such as flooding and water quality on all scales. I often find myself serving as a community builder, and a connector of people and resources.
What is being done in your county to support soil and water quality?
For decades, Washington County has created a culture of conservation through innovation, entrepreneurship, agribusiness, peer networking, and supportive government resources such as the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Iowa State University Extension. In the past decade Washington County has been one of the highest performing counties for cover crop adoption and conservation cost-share allocation. Our farmers continually are recognized for statewide and national awards, and serve on a variety of boards. In the future, I expect adoption of regenerative agriculture practices to continually expand with markets to support. Along with wide-spread adoption of soil health practices, there is room for more permanent conservation practices, and better manure management. Lastly, educating the next generation is very important. Grant funding sources through Washington County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and a partnership with a local school district, we have developed a watershed curriculum project in agriculture high school classes, and placed creek signage on high traffic bridge crossings for public awareness.
What could be done with more public funding for soil and water quality?
In the last 50-75 years we have made significant positive impacts to reducing the amount soil coming off our landscape through the birth of the Soil Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), and no-till adoption. However, currently we are at a critical time, but with no sense of urgency. Because of climate change we are seeing major extremes of flooding and drought, which comes at a cost, and the cost of doing nothing is not zero. Our conservation efforts are not keeping up with the intensification of agriculture which has brought environmental, economic, and social hardships to our watershed communities. Financial cost-share programs, partnerships, and educational campaigns are important investments to address our water resource challenges, but if we’re going to make a meaningful impact to address nutrient pollution in the next 50 years it’s going to take a substantial investment (state and federal), along with supported policies. I may not live long enough to realize the benefits of these investments but my efforts are for the next generations.