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Farmers work to protect water and soil quality in Kewaunee County

Photo: RichardBH / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / MGN
Photo: RichardBH / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / MGN(KALB)
Published: Feb. 7, 2018 at 9:52 PM CST
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A group of farmers in Kewaunee and southern Door County say it's up to them to improve soil and water conditions in their communities.

In less than two years, close to 50 farmers have banded together to form Peninsula Pride Farms.

Its mission is to protect the soil and improve water quality.

"This movement of farmers taking ownership of their own procedures, their own issues, really has some legs to it," said Don Niles, President of Peninsula Pride Farms.

The state is taking notice, awarding the group a $10,000 grant for a third year in a row for continued research and relationship building.

"We have so much collaboration from local agri-businesses, farmers talking to farmers, local government agencies and that's really what this program is about." said Rachel Rushmann, WI DATCP Nutrient Management Coordinator.

Peninsula Pride Farms is one of 17 farm groups around the state to receive a watershed protection grant this year.

Environmental groups are applauding their efforts.

"Farmers can really be leaders and the innovators to make change happen and if we're going to have more conservation happen across this state and other states, we really need to have groups like this be really the ones spurring the activity," said Steve Richter, of the Nature Conservancy.

At its annual meeting near Luxemburg, Peninsula Pride Farms shared a progress report with its members who represent about half of all the dairy cows and cropland in Kewaunee and southern Door Counties.

Group President Don Niles says the most notable change so far to protect soil and water are cover crops.

"Helping us save the soil, preventing wind erosion, preventing runoff erosion in the spring, that's been a new thing and very successful thing, so that for anybody driving through the county can notice things are a lot greener in the fall than they used to be," said Niles.

It's just the beginning Niles says, of farmers discovering and sharing better methods to protect the environment.

"I think we've stepped out on the right foot so far," said Niles.