LUXEMBURG, Wis. — For nearly four years now, Peninsula Pride Farms has been providing incentives and encouragement to farmers in southern Door and Kewaunee counties to continuously improve practices that protect and improve water quality.
Those efforts are making a difference, and they’re making PPF President Don Niles proud.
“We’ve been progressing every year,” Niles, a dairy farmer in Casco, said. “It’s especially exciting that we hit the 10,000-acre mark with cover crops this year, which is a first for us. That’s double what we had just a few years ago.”
That milestone, coming despite an extremely wet year, was just one of the highlights shared Feb. 13 at PPF’s 2020 conference and annual meeting.
Peninsula Pride Farms’ 57 members and supporters have plenty to be proud from 2019:
- Used five cost-share programs: cover crops (6,996 acres), split application of nitrogen (10,278 acres), shallow bedrock determination (348 acres), harvestable buffers (16.8 acres) and low-disturbance manure application (new in 2019)
- 17 members implemented at least one new conservation practice
- Continued in-depth analysis of member practices
- Joined the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance to gain support and services
- Hosted four events: 2019 annual meeting, a farm tour by Gov. Tony Evers, a manure management meeting and a field day
- Launched the group’s first member conservation practices survey and a membership brochure
- Distributed three editions of the group’s newsletter
- Posted QR codes around the area that take visitors to the PPF website for information about water quality practices
- Board member Nick Guilette was honored as the first-ever Certified Crop Adviser Conservationist of the Year in Washington, D.C.
- Niles participated in a panel discussion at the Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum in New York City to share what farmers are doing through PPF
Niles is especially proud of the ever-increasing cover crop acreage in the group. About two-thirds of those acres are cost-shared, he said. This means one-third is being paid for entirely by farmers.
“The purpose of our cost-share is to help reduce the risk of trying a new practice, and once the new practice is something familiar with the farm, they can often go on without cost-share, and that seems to be the way it’s working,” Niles said. “It’s creating the seed for future projects and that’s very encouraging for us to see.”
As the group looks to the future, Niles is excited about continuing the successful programs and working with open-minded farmers. Specific plans for the new year:
- Continuing to explore methods to better track reductions in the risk of nutrient and sediment loss to streams and rivers
- Exploring development of outreach materials to educate farmers and residents on the effectiveness of conservation practices
- Continuing cost-share programs, member conservation practices survey and analysis of member practices
- Hosting more educational events and field days
- Continuing to work closely with the farmers and partners in the Door-Kewaunee Watershed Demonstration Farm Network
“I see a committed group of agricultural people that are learning every year for the last four years,” Niles said. “I see our confidence building. I see that our willingness to try new things is increasing, so all that’s very encouraging.”