Jim Joens remembers planting crops on the Minnesota farm where he grew up as early as 1973, when he was 14 years old. Even then he knew that farming was what he wanted to be doing, and he’s been doing it ever since.
Jim first became interested in soil conservation when he worked on his first Future Farmers of America (now FFA) project. For this project, he laid out contours on his dad’s field. Contour farming, where crops are planted in rows that run perpendicular to natural rises rather than in artificially straight rows, is an ancient antidote to erosion. The elder Joens’ field, located on a hill, had been cultivated for years in straight rows, and was consequently suffering from heavy erosion.
After Jim planted corn on the contours that first year, the field saw very little washing and erosion, despite heavy rains. The adoption of contours on the Joens farm led to Jim utilizing conservation tillage and crop rotations. All of the conservation practices Jim implemented worked until a major rain event in the summer of 1993, when it became clear that Jim needed to incorporate more conservation practices on his land to address erosion in gullies.
Together, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Jim developed a conservation plan for his land to address the erosion, which will not only affect the health of the natural resources on his land, but also the health of the entire Kanaranzi Little Rock (KLR) Watershed.
Because of its significance in reducing pollution in the watershed, this project, together with similar projects on several other farms in the watershed, received $245,000 in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). ARRA, commonly known as the Recovery Act, was created by the Obama Administration to boost the economy, in part by developing and improving the Nation’s infrastructure.
The KLR Watershed includes almost 200,000 acres in Rock and Nobles Counties. Corn and soybeans are common to this part of Minnesota, where some families have farmed the same land for several generations. The Joens farm was one of three farms visited during the KLR Conservation Tour on September 22. This tour showcased the installation of both planned and completed terraces. The terraces will reduce sediment in streams, improve productivity on the farmland and reduce the effects of flooding in the KLR Watershed.
The KLR Watershed project is the result of a partnership between the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District, Rock County Soil and Water Conservation District, KLR Watershed District, Nobles County Board of Commissioners and NRCS.