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 8 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.

2021 Plans

DATCP awarded the group a grant of $14,700 for 2021.  Farmers of the Sugar River board is cautiously planning for learning events.  Many of the events have a virtual option for those that prefer.  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.  We had a “watch party” from Albany Lions club for those that chose to have some local networking time. There will be a virtual meeting on Feb 26th for a chance to discuss soil health test results from sampling last year.  On April 6 we are planning a cover crop field day at the Coplien Farm just north of  Juda on County S. Later in spring there will be several pop up field days around planting green, roller crimping and interseeding.  If you are interested in these short notice-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.  In mid July we plan to have a summer field day to showcase a soil pit and rainfall simulator.  More events are likely to come up- contact Tonya to get on the email list to stay connected.  We will be offering incentive payments again this year for cover crops, planting green or roller crimping, soil health testing and some constructed 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.

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.

Upcoming Events

Land & Water Conservation Committee Meeting @ Green County Courthouse board room
May 6 @ 9:30 am – 11:30 am
Meetings are held monthly on the first Thursday of the month, after the first Wednesday. They are open to the public. They start at 9:30am except during winter months, then they start at 10:00am.
Public Hearing for Land and Water Resource Management Plan 2021-31 @ Green County Historic Courthouse- County Board Room
May 6 @ 9:30 am – 10:30 am
Land & Water Conservation Committee Meeting @ Green County Courthouse board room
Jun 3 @ 9:30 am – 11:30 am
Meetings are held monthly on the first Thursday of the month, after the first Wednesday. They are open to the public. They start at 9:30am except during winter months, then they start at 10:00am.

Video Resources

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