A producer-led watershed group that shares and learns from other farmers to be profitable, protect and increase soil functions, and improve water quality in the watershed. We strive to teach other local farmers how to make conservation systems work on their farms to be part of the solution for cleaner water and sustainable farms.

Farmers of the Sugar River

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) awarded a Producer Led Watershed Protection Grant to this group of farmers.  They have been busy teaching other farmers and the public about no till, cover crops and other ways to minimize soil erosion. The structure of the group is that a board of 7 farmers plan events for farmers to learn from.  There are no memberships or dues. Farmers are welcome to join one or all events.  But in order to participate in conservation practice incentive payments, farms must be located within the watershed.

2024 Plans

in 2024, the group was awared $26,142 in a competitive grant from DATCP.  We have plans to network and educate farmers and the public through a variety of means this year.  January 16 interested watershed individuals met at 1pm at Pinnacle Dairy for a tour of the dairy and digester.  On Jan 18th farmers met at Toefflers in New Glarus at Noon to gather for lunch and a roundtable discussion.  Friday, February 9 was our annual meeting at the Albany Lions Club in Albany starting at 10AM. Annual Meeting Agenda Our facebook page- recordings for morning and afternoon. Our keynote speaker was Blake Vince to talk about his experience as a Nuffield Scholar and how he’s been successful using “roots not iron” for his Ontario, Canada holistic farming operation.  We had a local farmer panel talking about cover crops in their operations- Jake Kaderly (grain farmer), Robert Zurfluh (grain and heifer operation) and Jeremy Luckey (dairy farmer).  Chris Bandura from UWEX shared different tests or analysis that can be run on soil and plants.  These tests inform farmers management decisions throughout the growing season.  Feb 27th will be another roundtable, this time in the southern part of the watershed at the Spring Grove Town Hall at Noon.  A Shop Talk is being planned for mid-March on drills, maintentance, and planting cover crops- the many ways to get the job done. This coming crop year we would like to showcase at least two Nitrogen Rate Plots in corn fields in the watershed- stay tuned for more information.  Pop up field days covering grazing of cover crops and other topics could come up in spring.  There will be a summer field day, just haven’t made plans for it quite yet- stay tuned if interested or contact Tonya.

Any questions- please contact Tonya Gratz by email: Tonya.Gratz@wi.nacdnet.net or call 608-325-4195 ext 121.

If you are interested in pop up field days-not more than 2 hour field days- contact Tonya Gratz (608-325-4195 ext 121 or Tonya.Gratz@wi.nacdnet.net) to get on the text list.

2023 Summary

The group was awarded a grant of $23,960 for 2023 from DATCP.  There were two roundtable meetings- the first was Feb. 2nd at the Pink Heifer in Monticello that 15 people attended and the second was Feb 28th at Bridges in Brodhead that 13 were able to attend.  These meetings were meant for farmers to talk to each other about how the past year went, things they were thinking about trying in the following year and to get ideas or input from other farmers.  The annual meeting was held Feb. 21 at the Albany Lions Club in Albany (agenda for the day) and 83 people attended.  There were farmer panels discussing no-till and alternative manure handling strategies.  Steve Apfelbaum explained the awesome role farmers have in carbon sequestering.  We discussed results of the biomass sampling project conducted last fall and heard from the DNR on the health of the Sugar River.  The presentations were recorded and available on facebook- broke out by morning and after lunch.  Here’s a video challenge list for ideas of information available on the web.  We had a shop talk on March 14 at Jerry Daniels’ shop at N1495 County OK, and discussed herbicide groups, herbicide programs that work with different plantings of cover crops, and termination of covers (including a roller crimper).  17 farmers joined in on the conversation.  Josh Kamps also helped with weed identification of some our local trouble makers (like waterhemp, giant ragweed and palmer amaranth) with potted live weeds and pictures.  On May 23, 31 people attended the field day at Alvin Francis’ farm to discuss planting green in fields and see a rainfall simulator rain on different soil management systems. We published our first paper newsletter in July: Summer newsletter.  On Aug 22nd, 21 people attended a Pollinator & Prairie Plot Tour at Bob Zurfluh’s farm near Monticello.  We had guest speakers Olivia Kovacs from UWEX, Sam Anderson a PhD student, and Micah Kloppenberg from Xerces Society talk about the insects and plants that were encountered. A fall newsletter was mailed to 119 addresses to update and inform landowners about cover crops- why plant and who to contact for supply and incentive payment opportunities. We gave $16,946.40 in incentive payments to 21 farmers for using no-till (or planting green) on 512.5 acres and planted over 1,887 acres of cover crops that they hadn’t tried before.

2022 Summary

The group was awarded a $22,000 grant from DATCP for 2022. A roundtable chat was held at Toeffler’s in New Glarus on Jan. 27 with 14 people attending.  The annual meeting was Feb 15th at the Albany Lions Club. Keith Berns and Rodrigo Werle were our guest speakers. 85 people attended the meeting. Click to link to the event that was posted on facebook.  March 2nd, 7 people attended a meeting to talk about research and demonstrations that they were considering on their farm this year.  Later in the spring, three farmers were interviewed about no tilling and their planter adjustments by Tonya Gratz and Dan Smith (see above clips).  A round robin field day was held on June 14 at 4 farms for 20 people looking at planting into covers and interseeding covers into corn. On August 17, Gov. Evers and DNR Sec. Cole made a quick visit to the watershed and spoke to a couple of members. We hosted two pasture walks pop-up style on September 9th and created a summary page for each hosting farmer: Bryce & Jen Reimer (has 12 farmers come) and Bert & Trish Paris (had 8 farmers show up).  Corn silage was harvested so there was a pop up field day to see how the interseeding turned out on September 14 at Wengers with 12 people attending. To cap off the year, 20 people toured two important local businesses- Honey Creek Feed Mill and Badger State Ethanol on November 29th. Incentive payments were paid to 18 farmers in the sum of $14,334.25 for planting cover crops, no-tilling (most were planting green), constructing a waterway and grazing covers.  A little more than $4,000 was spent on putting on meetings, workshops and attending conferences.  In fall, we collected and sent in 16 biomass & matching soil samples to be analyzed for nutrient content.  This data will be presented at the 2023 annual meeting in February. 

2021 Summary

DATCP awarded the group a grant of $14,700 for 2021.  The group paid for 5 people to “attend” the virtual No Till Conference and also paid a teacher’s tuition to learn from Understanding Ag’s Regen Ag 101 class.  There was an in person & virtual meeting on Jan. 7 that a panel of 4 farmers talked about their experiences planting green and answered questions for 24 attendees.  At least 24 people joined virtually to Rick Clark and Erin Silva speaking at the Dodge County Soil Health Expo on Feb 10.  There was a virtual meeting on Feb 26th for a chance to discuss soil health test results from prior sampling.  On April 6 we had a cover crop field day at the Coplien Farm just north of  Juda on County S that 28 people attended.  On May 26 we had a pop up field day showcasing planting green and roller crimping. On July 13 there was a soil structure field day at Nick Faessler’s farm that 33 people witnessed a rainfall simulator and soil pit.  On October 27th we held a follow up to the pop up field day,  harvesting corn and drilling another cover crop.  We offered incentive payments again this year for cover crops, planting green or roller crimping, soil health testing and some constructed conservation practices.  $21,008.35 was paid to 21 farmers for implementing conservation practices.

2020 Summary

A DATCP grant for $35,000 was awarded for the year to support meetings, education, incentive payments and administration of the grant.  A roundtable discussion for 10 people was held Jan 22 at TnD’s in Monticello.  7 of us carpooled to the Cover Crop Conference in Stevens Point February 20.  The annual meeting was held February 26 at the Albany Lion Club with Adam Lasch, Aaron Augustian, and Frank Lessiter as our speakers. We had 58 people in attendance.  Shop Talk was cancelled because of  Covid19. We held two pop up field days- one on June 22 about soil health testing (had 12 people come between two sites-Dennis Miller & Alvin Francis) and the other on July 9 on cover crops (7 farmers at Jerry Daniels’ shop). The summer field day/ tour was held at Robert Zurfluh’s farm on Aug 28. We had 15 farmers attend. $30,997.42 as incentive payments were paid to 39 farmers for fall cover crops, planting green (no-tilling), roller crimping, soil health testing and other constructed conservation practices.

2019 Summary

$25,000 was the DATCP grant award for this year.  The annual meeting was held March 5th at the Albany Lions Club with speakers Jim Leverich and Ted Bay.  It was centered around economics of no till and cover crops.  60 attendees enjoyed the information that was presented.  This year’s shop talk was held at Helena, north of Monroe, on March 26 and discussion was about sprayers and herbicides.  There was a Summer Field Day August 7 at Truttmann Dairy LLC. The group applied for $25,000 from DATCP in 2019 and has been awarded it.  $7,709.25 was  awarded to producers in the watershed that tried new things on their farm- no till planting a crop they haven’t before and planting cover crops.  The fall was wet and very challenging to get cover crops planted, so we carried $13,843.74 into 2020 to use for incentive payments to farmers.

2018 Summary

The group was able to have a logo created to help create a “brand” and have better group recognition.  It features a meandering river of blue, mimicking the Sugar River, with green buffers on both sides of the blue.  Shirts and signs were made to promote the logo and name recognition with the group. Three events were planned and people showed up!  There were over 70 people at the first annual meeting on February 20 at the Albany Lions Club.  Jamie Patton was the keynote speaker and put that days’ downpour of over 2 inches into perspective as to what was happening to the soil when left unprotected.

The DNR gave an update of the condition of the Sugar River and it sounds like it’s doing well.  Two farmers, John Koepke and Lee Kinnard, shared their experiences with no till and cover crops in their area of the state.  Shop Talk was held on March 12 at Dan Roe’s shop, south of Monticello.  31 people came wanting to learn more about drills and planters.  At the Summer Field Day on August 21, hosted by Jerry & Barb Daniels, 60 attendees came to see a soil pit in a standing corn field and to see how different land managements held up in the rainfall simulator.

23 farmers received incentive payments, totaling over $8,700, for planting cover crops in late summer and fall.  Those that received payments planted a total of 2,128 acres.  Cover crops that were planted included broadcasting rye, drilling oats after corn silage, aerial applying rye and radish into standing soybeans and broadcasting wheat onto bean stubble.

Farmers of the Sugar River received a $16,500 grant from Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for 2018, and spent about 75% of it.  The remaining leftover money will carry over into 2019.

Upcoming Events

Land and Water Conservation Committee Monthly Meeting @ USDA Service Center
Mar 5 @ 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Land and Water Conservation Committee Monthly Meeting @ USDA Service Center
Apr 4 @ 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Land and Water Conservation Committee Monthly Meeting @ USDA Service Center
May 2 @ 10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Farmers of the Sugar River would like to recognize and thank the generous sponsors that have helped the group be successful.  They include The Bank of New Glarus, Alpine Auto, Pleasant Grain, Jerry & Barb Daniels, Helena, Compeer Financial, L & S Truck Service, Badger State Ethanol, Schwartzlow Fertilizers, Stine & Justin Blum, Baker Precision Planter Works, Al McGuire, MP Services, Colony Brands, New Glarus Brewing Company, Kuhn North America, Super Soy, Albany Lions Club and Insight FS.  The support of these local businesses is appreciated

green county watershed groups 2020mapMap of Farmers of the Sugar River Area

Watersheds in Green County

Video Resources

Biological Capital from One Good Idea

Dr. David Johnson & Hui-Chun Su (Johnson-Su Bioreactor)

200 bushel corn- no N or P

Christine Jones- Nitrogen Solution

Table Top Rainfall Demo

Aerial Seeding into Soybeans

Keith Berns- Carbonomics

Gabe Brown Video

UW Integrated Pest & Crop Management

Jay Fuhrer Video

Ray Archuleta video

Dr. Elaine Ingham Video

Steve Groff Video

Living Soil Video

Jerry Hatfield Video

Dr. Kris Nichols Video

Russell Hendrick- Treating the Farm as an Ecosystem

Dr. Lowell Catlett- Best Time Ever to Be in Agriculture

Rick Clark- 2020 WI Cover Crop Conference Keynote

Understanding Ag- From Stress to Strategy: Financial Planning During Challenging Times

Loran Steinlage- Growing Crops 365 Days a Year

Keith Berns- Ultimate Weed & Feed

UW Discovery Farms- Mitigating Climate Change Through the Soil Carbon Sponge

Soil Carbon Cowboys