Greenleaf farmer changing the conversation on water conservation

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GREENLEAF, Wis. (WBAY) - Farmer Dan Brick is trying to change the way we think about agriculture and water quality.

"We are trying to change the image that we don't care," Brick says. "We care very much, and it's important for our families to have clean water and so our kids can take over our farms someday and feel good about it," Brick says.

Brick is giving neighbors a first-hand look at the water conservation efforts on the 1,000 cattle Brickstead Dairy in Greenleaf.

Brick's practices are aimed at reducing soil and nutrient loading in the Fox River and the Bay of Green Bay. Runoff has caused dead zones in the bay, making those spots uninhabitable for aquatic life.

"What we are trying to do here on the farm is keep nutrients in the field," Brick says. "We don't want it in the river and lakes."

To keep the nutrients in the field and prevent soil erosion and runoff, Brick uses a cover crop like Hairy vetch or crimson clover.

"All different type root structures," Brick explains.

Brick interseeds it. That means he plants it inbetween his corn rows. When the corn is gone, the cover crop is well on its way to protecting the soil through the winter.

"The plant starts to grow. It gets shaded pretty good. It might not look like much now, but we've got two weeks of growth right here," Brick says.

A demonstration with water jugs shows why a cover crop is important. A jug in the front is the runoff. A jug in back is the water that would be absorbed into the field.

Turn on the water to represent rain. The soil with a cover crop takes in a lot of that water and nutrients while the soil without a cover crop runs off. That runoff poses a threat to our waterways.

"The more the cover crop, the cleaner the water is in the containers," Brick says.

Brick has a USGS monitoring system to track sediment and nutrient runoff.

"It will automatically collect samples every time there is a rainfall event," Brick says.

Brick is a fifth generation farmer and he's hoping the advancements in conservation he is making on his farm will allow him to pass it onto a sixth generation.