Coffee, Cookies & Conversation in Shawnee County

You are invited to these FREE events to hear from the experts and enjoy a cup of coffee and cookies (while supplies last.)

This series is hosted by the Shawnee County Conservation District and K-State Research and Extension office in Shawnee County with assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Each program is a Free event open to interested landowners, crop and livestock producers. Thank you to our sponsors: Premier Farm and Home, Frontier Farm Credit, Kansas Insurance, Landmark National Bank, and Shawnee County Farm Bureau.

Please RSVP by the day before the event to ensure that we have plenty of handouts, coffee, cookies, and chairs. To make a reservation call 785-338-9946 or e-mail Judy Boltman at judy@sccdistrict.com.

 

3rd Annual Playa Lake Tour & Workshop

Join us on January 8 and 9, 2019, for the 3rd Annual Playa Lake Tour and Workshop, hosted by Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS), in Dodge City, Kansas. This event is designed for landowners and tenants who have playas on their land, but is also open to individuals who are interested in learning more about this unique natural resource. Participants will learn about playas, the benefits they provide including groundwater recharge and wildlife habitat, and the conservation programs available for restoring and conserving playas.

The two-day event will begin with a playa tour on Tuesday, January 8, which will include visits to a few different playas that are enrolled in various conservation programs. Attendees will see what playa lakes may look like before, during, and after being accepted into a conservation program and using different management strategies to restore the health of a playa. There will also be opportunities to have open discussions about the pros and cons of each conservation program.

During the workshop, which will be held on Wednesday, participants will learn about the latest playa research, why playas are so important to the high plains ecosystem, and available playa conservation programs. There will also be an open discussion session where attendees can ask questions of technical staff and landowners who are participating in conservation programs and meet local staff who can give expert advice about playa lakes and playa restoration programs.

The Playa Lake Tour and Workshop is FREE for landowners and tenants with playa lakes on their land and includes lunch both days and tour transportation. For others who would like to attend, there is a $50 fee which covers lunch and transportation. Registration is required. To learn more, visit the KAWS website or contact your local USDA staff.

Register now!

January 8, 2019 – Ford & Gray County Playa Tour

Dodge City Learning Center, 308 W. Frontview, Dodge City KS 67801

 

9:00 am Depart: Dodge City Learning Center, 308 W. Frontview, Dodge City KS 67801

Tour: Ford & Gray County Playa Sites

11:30 am Arrive: Gray County Extension Office, 17002 US-50, Cimarron, KS 67835
12:00 pm Lunch: Provided by Star Seed
1:30 pm Continue Tour: Gray and Ford County Playa Sites
4:00 pm Travel to: KDWPT Wild Turkey Playa Lake
5:00 pm Arrive: Dodge City Learning Center, 308 W. Frontview, Dodge City KS 67801

 

January 9, 2019 – Playa Lake Workshop

Dodge City Learning Center, 308 W. Frontview, Dodge City KS 67801

 

8:00 am Registration Opens
9:00 am Welcome – Joe Kramer
9:05-9:35 am Dr. David Haukos, Ecological Services and Playa Lakes, KSU Cooperative F&W Research Unit Leader
9:35-10:05 am Mike Carter, Playa Lake Benefits on Private Lands, Playa Lakes Joint Venture Coordinator
10:05-10:20 am Break
10:20-10:50 am Steve Donovan, Wetlands and Soil Health, Ducks Unlimited Manager of Conservation Programs, South Dakota
10:50-11:20 am Matt Bain, Wetlands and Wetland Conservation Easements, Smokey Valley Ranch Manager, The Nature Conservancy
11:20- 11:50 pm Mark Goudy, Playa Lake Landowner Program Delivery Perspectives, FSA
12:00-1:00 pm Lunch Provided by Star Seed
1:00 pm-1:30pm NRCS/ACEP/WRE Program, Lynn Thurlow, NRCS
1:30-2:00 pm FSA, CP38B and other CP Wetland Program Success, Rod Winkler, FSA
2:00 – 2:30 pm DOC, Aquifer Conservation Programs, Steve Frost, DOC
2:30 – 3:00 pm KDWPT, WIHA and Playa Lake Programs, Wes Sowards, KDWPT
3:00 – 3:15 pm Break
3:15 – 3:45 pm

3:45 – 4:15 pm

4:15 – 4:30 pm

Ducks Unlimited KS Playa Lake Programs, Abe Lollar, DU KS

Pheasants Forever, Conservation and Playa Lake Programs, Chris McClelland, PF/QF

Workshop Wrap Up/Prize Drawing, Joe Kramer

 

KAWS Announces New Strategic Plan

Wichita, KS – Following nearly two years of reflection, input from more than 200 stakeholders, and many hours spent on a vision for the future, the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS) Board of Directors announces its updated mission, vision, and strategic plan.  This new statement of our Mission, Vision, Goals and Objectives reflects not only where KAWS has been and is today, but provides a matrix for key priorities for the next five years.

“As an organization, KAWS has a rich history of partnerships that have made our work possible,” said KAWS Executive Director Jessica Mounts. “Working through the process for our Strategic Plan has allowed us to capitalize on those partnerships to identify our key values and direction into our future.”

In the updated mission, KAWS reaffirmed its commitment to “Connecting the waters, lands, and people of Kansas.” In addition to clarifying this mission, KAWS also recognized these core values, essential to the vision of the organization:

  • Waters that are clean, plentiful, and protected.
  • Lands that are prosperous for people and wildlife.
  • People who are knowledgeable in sustaining natural resources.

“We are proud that this strategic plan has helped redefine and clarify our mission and vision – the direction of our organization, based on what we believe are Kansas’ pressing needs,” said Brad Loveless, chair of KAWS’s Board of Directors. “This plan acknowledges the challenges we’re facing in both the short and long term, and prepares KAWS to respond by working to be a vital partner for conservation in Kansas.”

To implement this project, KAWS will be evaluating and growing existing programs, expanding upon external communications and marketing, diversifying funding opportunities and evaluating organizational structure and processes. “Evaluation and fine-tuning our work will be the key to moving this plan forward, said Mounts.  “We’ve identified our priorities, and will be assigning those priorities to specific team members to move them forward.” Since 1996, KAWS has served as a key resource in the conservation of wetlands and streams in Kansas. “KAWS is at a pivotal time to move ahead in a thoughtful, strategic manner,” Loveless said. “We’re looking forward to working with our partners in this exciting new phase of KAWS’s history.”  The Strategic Plan can be viewed at www.kaws.org.

Dirt clods, mud pies and other insights in soil sustainability

Doug Peterson and Candy Arnold pour water over soil samples demonstrating how tilling practices affect infiltration and stability of soils. Photo by Tom Parker

By Tom Parker
Like most farmers, Doug Peterson’s concepts about farming and soil management were founded on the experiences and teachings of his father and grandfather. The knowledge they imparted was taken as gospel truth, inviolable and immutable. A college degree reinforced those ideas, and a career as an NRCS field specialist let him put those ideas to work. By his 20th year on the job, he felt he knew about everything there was to know about soil—how to use it, how to take care of it, how to improve it.

He was on top of his game. Which was why, when he was asked to evaluate a workshop on soil health for possible inclusion in Missouri NRCS programs 10 years ago, he attended with some skepticism. “What else could it teach me?” he wondered, and sat there in utter disbelief as the instructor, using dirt clods and mud pies to illustrate complex biological processes, methodically and systematically dismantled his understanding of soil.
Everything Peterson thought he knew about soil was based on a world that no longer existed. Since the first farmer broke the soil in Mesopotamia 20,000 years ago, an unimaginable transformation had altered not only societies and cultures but the very fabric of existence of life on earth. Nothing was spared, not the air, not the water, not the soil.

Farmers and ranchers attend the soil health workshop hosted by KAWS in Clay Center in July, 2018.

So revelatory was that simple demonstration that Peterson, an NRCS Soil Health Specialist for Missouri and Iowa, now uses it as an opening act for his Soil Health Sustainability in Cropland workshops. Joining him for five such workshops across Kansas in mid-July was Candy Thomas, NRCS Soil Health Specialist for Kansas and Nebraska. The workshops were sponsored in part by the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams through funding by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Locations included Iola, Parsons, Clay Center, Stull and Lansing.
Peterson, like most farmers and soil specialists, wasn’t blind. Most of his work dealt with mitigating changes in the soil, in the water, in the climate, but the changes were both resistant and resilient. They could also be oddly contradictory, such as when the Missouri River flooded while two-thirds of the river’s watershed were in drought. Farmers were losing ground, literally and figuratively, and conventional farming practices only seemed to make matters worse.
Whatever underlying causes were wrecking such havoc had to be related to the water cycle, he thought. “If you have flood warnings and drought conditions in the watershed at the same time, how much infiltration is occurring? Not much,” he said. “And we’re not talking 15-inch rains, but three-inch rains that cause flooding like we’ve never seen before. We have to understand water.”
More specifically, we have to understand how water interacts with soil. Peterson took two virtually identical dirt clods, or aggregates as he preferred, and placed them in a matching pair of glass beakers. As he poured water over them to replicate a heavy rainfall, one clod, taken from a field where no-till was practiced, retained its shape while allowing most of the water to filter through; the other, taken from a field under long-term tillage, disintegrated within seconds.
“The most limiting natural resource in crop production is water,” he said, “and the most important part of the water cycle is infiltration. It’s critical to understand how the ability of soil to hold together impacts infiltration.”
The no-till aggregate was held together by organic matter and soil organisms such as fungi, arthropods, worms, millipedes, bacteria, nematodes and protozoa, he said, while the other had little more than sand, silt and clay to bind it.
For infiltration purposes, the most important part of the soil is the nothingness, the cracks, the voids, he said. Water cannot pass through solids. In no-till fields, rain slowly percolates through root channels, cracks, wormholes and other minute openings, while in tilled fields the upper layer of topsoil has little organic matter to glue it together. The entire structure can collapse during even moderate rain events.
“Erosion doesn’t start with a big chunk washing away,” he said. “It starts when individual particles break loose from the aggregate.”
In healthy soil, the combined biomass of soil organisms is staggering. An acre of soil contains more than five tons of organisms such as fungi, arthropods, worms, millipedes, bacteria, nematodes and protozoa, many of them microscopic. Earthworms mix and move residues in the soil, creating large pores that are nutrient rich and filled with microbes. These pores create air and water flow and allow roots to grow and take advantage of resources.
“Pore spaces are the lungs and circulatory system of soils,” Thomas said. “They allow the soil to breathe.”
Not so with soil that’s been tilled. Studies show that long-term tillage drastically reduces soil organic matter. One study conducted in a soybean field showed a 63 percent loss of soil organic matter after 17 years of tillage.
Much of that loss can be attributed to disturbance. Tillage adds oxygen to the soil, which in turn induces bacteria to consume carbon. Half to two-thirds of our soil’s carbon has been lost through tillage, Peterson said. Surface temperatures play a critical role in soil organisms, too, especially in grass systems.
“When we mow hay off on the sunniest days, we jack up soil temperatures 40 degrees or more,” he said. “What happens to soil moisture? We eliminate it. Earthworms go deep, but most of bacteria and the fungi will grow dormant or die.”
Add fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to the mix and even more damage occurs.
Why then, Peterson asked, if we know that tillage degrades the soil, why is it so ingrained in our society?
Because it was efficient. Whether the first farmers broke the soil in Mesopotamia or, 4,000 years later, in the Midwest, the underlying soil teemed with life. “It had crazy high organic matter, high biological activity, high aggregate stability,” Peterson said. “But after years of tillage, what happened to organic matter? It declined. What happened to aggregate stability? It went down. What happened to production? It went down.”
For early farmers, their only recourse was to break new ground and allow the old ground revegetate. A similar pattern took place in the United States, he said. Settlers tilled areas for crops and left grassland for their livestock. Once the soil became less fertile, they rotated to other sections while the land healed. Then came the 1940s and mechanized equipment. Suddenly, farmers didn’t need extra land to regenerate. They added nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil and called it good—but they didn’t put back organic matter.
“The reason we’ve been taught that tillage is beneficial is because historically, except for the last 50 or 60 years, it was based on soils with high organic matter, biological activity and aggregate stability,” Peterson said. “Is that the kind of soil we have these days? No. Tillage doesn’t get you the kind of soil that we once had.”
Add overgrazing, overuse of pesticides and herbicides, haying and other sources of soil disturbance, and it seems as if we’re actively trying to get rid of water, he said.
It’s not too late to restore the ecological balance, Peterson said, but it won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy.
“Change is hard,” he said. People make changes when their backs are against the wall. If you think it’s hard for a farmer to change from tilling to no-till, how much harder is it for the government to change everything its practices are based on?”
Achieving soil health requires utilizing a number of practices that include the use of diverse and strategic cover crops, crop rotations, adapted nutrient management, integrated weed and pest management, and no-till. “Soil health is not a destination, it’s a journey,” he said. “Managing for a living ecosystem is the key to optimum production.”
From a resource concern standpoint, producers should design for what they don’t have. “What does your soil need? Get your shovel out and start digging,” he said. Crop diversity cannot be ignored or overstated. Plants were created to grow in diverse ecosystems. Nature doesn’t have a monoculture.
“If we put these principles to work, we can make huge changes in our fields,” Peterson said. “The last 100 years have been a mining operation. We mined organic matter just like they mined oil and minerals. It was an extraction operation, and all of us are left with something less productive than it was. But we can change it. We have the answer right here. We can improve production and profitability and solve all the issues. We can’t hit the easy button as Candy said, but we can push the start button.”

Funding for the workshops was provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Project partners include the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, NRCS-Kansas, Kansas Water Office, K-State University, Kansas SARE, No Till on the Plains, Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment, nine Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy groups, Kansas Grazing Land Coalition and Friends of the Kaw.

###

The Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams is a non-profit organization working to connect the waters, lands, and people of Kansas. KAWS believes in an inclusive, non-partisan and science-based approach to support sustainability of the natural ecosystems and working lands of Kansas. For more information about our work, visit www.kaws.org

 

Grazing Expert Jim Gerrish Comes to Kansas

Grazing Expert Jim Gerrish to Present Workshops on Soil Health

Emporia, Kansas, August 28, 2018 – For graziers, the key to increasing revenue stream and profitability is managed grazing. By understanding the ecological processes behind soil health, utilizing effective fencing strategies and developing water systems for livestock, pastures are more productive and support more livestock. And nobody knows grazing management better than Jim Gerrish.

Gerrish, author of “Management Intensive Grazing, the Grassroots of Grass Farming,” “Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-around Grazing” and numerous other articles, has more than 20 years experience in beef-forage systems research and outreach as well as 20-plus years raising cattle and sheep. He and his wife, Dawn, own and operate American GrazingLands Services LLC, a business dedicated to aiding farmers and ranchers more effectively manage their grazing lands for economic and environmental sustainability. In addition to on-ranch consulting services and suppliers of electric fenced water system products, they participate in many workshops and seminars across the U.S. and Canada.

Gerrish’s single-day workshop, Grazing for Better Soil Health, will be presented throughout Kansas beginning on Monday, Sept. 17, at the Anderson Building in the Lyon County Fairgrounds, Emporia. Additional workshops will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at the Samuels Community Building, Eureka; Wednesday, Sept. 19, at St. Columbkille’s Parish Hall, Blaine; Thursday, Sept. 20, at Jewell Community Center, Jewell; and Friday, Sept. 21, at the Kansas Polytechnic Center, Salina. All workshops begin at 8 a.m.

Tickets are $25 per workshop and can be purchased online at https://kaws.org/events. Sponsors include the Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS) through funding from North Central Extension Risk Management Education.

Soil health is the critical foundation of a grazing business.

“Healthy soils can help keep you and your livestock healthier,” Gerrish said. “Biologically active soils allow natural processes of mineral cycling and pathogen checks and balances to take place. And when the soil is alive and functioning, purchases of off-farm inputs can be dramatically reduced.”

Some of the highest returns on investment graziers can make on the farm or ranch are with stock water development and subdivision fencing, he said. Other pasture or herd improvement systems graziers choose to make can be made even more beneficial through time-controlled grazing.

Understanding the principles of effective grazing practices is also a critical component of successful grazing businesses, he added.

“You should never stop learning how to improve the profitability of your business while creating healthier soils and plant communities,” Gerrish said.

###

The Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS) is a non-profit organization working to connect the lands, water, and people of Kansas through an inclusive, non-partisan and science-based approach to support sustainability of the natural ecosystems and working lands of Kansas.

For further information, visit us at www.kaws.org, call Mary Howell at 785-562-8726, or e-mail at kfu.mary@gmail.com.

 

We’re Hiring! Middle and Lower KS River Watershed Coordinator

Position Title:  Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) – Watershed Coordinator

Location:  Middle and Lower Kansas River Watersheds in Kansas

Contact:  Jessica Mounts, Executive Director
   jmounts@kaws.org

Opens:  August 20, 2018    Closes:  September 10, 2018

Hours:  Full-time, exempt

Method of application: Submit resume and cover letter to Jessica Mounts via email by 5 pm on September 10, 2018

Who we are: The Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS) is a non-profit organization working to connect the lands, water, and people of Kansas. Our vision is waters that are clean, plentiful and protected, lands that are prosperous for people and wildlife, and people who are knowledgeable in sustaining our natural resources. We’ve been working with landowners and producers across Kansas for more than 20 years to improve water quality, reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, and building strong partnerships with natural resource agencies and other organizations along the way. KAWS is a team of professional and creative people working to inspire natural resource conservation through science-based solutions.

Job Description: Our Watershed Coordinators work with producers and landowners to implement agricultural best management practices for improving water quality. They provide oversight for outreach to watershed stakeholders and residents regarding WRAPS projects and develop goal-driven outreach campaigns to engage producers and other stakeholders for improving soil health and water quality. Coordinators achieve annual BMP implementation goals as stated in the approved 9 Element Watershed plan, as well as organize, lead, and manage WRAPS Stakeholder Leadership Team (SLT) meetings. They identify and enhance opportunities to implement and retain best management practices within the watershed by forming strong alliances with local agency staff, stakeholders, community organizations, businesses, and watershed residents. Finally, our Coordinators work closely with our Executive Director and other team members to support the mission and vision of KAWS.

The successful candidate will: have knowledge of principles, practices, terminology, and techniques of agricultural science related to water quality, nutrient management, soil health, and soil conservation; have knowledge of state, federal, and local environmental laws and regulations; utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS); have the ability to generate reports and educational materials; possess skill in interpersonal relationships i.e., motivation, written and verbal communications with producers and partners to meet their needs in a courteous and cooperative manner; have familiarity with social media outlets; display high standards of ethical conduct; commit to quality of service; display a high level of initiative and commitment; work with minimal supervision; demonstrate responsible behavior and attention to detail; follow organizational policy and cooperate with supervisors; market, organize, and conduct public outreach programs to inform watershed landowners and producers of available programs and funding to address water quality impairments and in field resource concerns.

Required Education: A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with major coursework in Agriculture, Biology, Ecology, Natural Resource Conservation or Environmental Science is required.

Salary: beginning at $50,000 annually.

Job Qualifications: Applicant should be a detail oriented individual with the ability to work independently and prioritize a variable work schedule and have good communication skills, both verbally and in writing. Job will occasionally require walking through rough terrain and/or inclement weather conditions along with carrying equipment. Knowledge of ArcGIS software, google suite of products, social media, engineering equipment, and agricultural practices is beneficial.

Non-Discrimination: KAWS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability and genetic information, age, or other non-merit factor.

We’re Hiring! Milford Watershed Coordinator

Position Title:  Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) – Watershed Coordinator

Location:  Milford Lake Watershed in Kansas

Contact:  Jessica Mounts, Executive Director
   jmounts@kaws.org

Opens:  August 08, 2018    Closes:  September 07, 2018

Hours:  Full-time, exempt

Method of application: Submit resume and cover letter to Jessica Mounts via email by 5 pm on September 7, 2018

Who we are: The Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams (KAWS) is a non-profit organization working to connect the lands, water, and people of Kansas. Our vision is waters that are clean, plentiful and protected, lands that are prosperous for people and wildlife, and people who are knowledgeable in sustaining our natural resources. We’ve been working with landowners and producers across Kansas for more than 20 years to improve water quality, reduce sediment and nutrient runoff, and building strong partnerships with natural resource agencies and other organizations along the way. KAWS is a team of professional and creative people working to inspire natural resource conservation through science-based solutions.

Job Description: Our Watershed Coordinators work with producers and landowners to implement agricultural best management practices for improving water quality. They provide oversight for outreach to watershed stakeholders and residents regarding WRAPS projects and develop goal-driven outreach campaigns to engage producers and other stakeholders for improving soil health and water quality. Coordinators achieve annual BMP implementation goals as stated in the approved 9 Element Watershed plan, as well as organize, lead, and manage WRAPS Stakeholder Leadership Team (SLT) meetings. They identify and enhance opportunities to implement and retain best management practices within the watershed by forming strong alliances with local agency staff, stakeholders, community organizations, businesses, and watershed residents. Finally, our Coordinators work closely with our Executive Director and other team members to support the mission and vision of KAWS.

The successful candidate will: have knowledge of principles, practices, terminology, and techniques of agricultural science related to water quality, nutrient management, soil health, and soil conservation; have knowledge of state, federal, and local environmental laws and regulations; utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS); have the ability to generate reports and educational materials; possess skill in interpersonal relationships i.e., motivation, written and verbal communications with producers and partners to meet their needs in a courteous and cooperative manner; have familiarity with social media outlets; display high standards of ethical conduct; commit to quality of service; display a high level of initiative and commitment; work with minimal supervision; demonstrate responsible behavior and attention to detail; follow organizational policy and cooperate with supervisors; market, organize, and conduct public outreach programs to inform watershed landowners and producers of available programs and funding to address water quality impairments and in field resource concerns.

Required Education: A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with major coursework in Agriculture, Biology, Ecology, Natural Resource Conservation or Environmental Science is required.

Salary: beginning at $50,000 annually.

Job Qualifications: Applicant should be a detail oriented individual with the ability to work independently and prioritize a variable work schedule and have good communication skills, both verbally and in writing. Job will occasionally require walking through rough terrain and/or inclement weather conditions along with carrying equipment. Knowledge of ArcGIS software, google suite of products, social media, engineering equipment, and agricultural practices is beneficial.

Non-Discrimination: KAWS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability and genetic information, age, or other non-merit factor.

Big Changes Coming…

Welcome!

First of all, we’re so glad you’re here!  We’ve been busy updating our site and renewing our mission and our vision. So, be on the lookout for exciting new changes coming soon!

Because we strive for a spirit of transparency and forward thinking, we’re working on improving our communications. This includes new ways to interact with our site, programs and people.

KAWS operates under a principle of building partnerships. Help us achieve our goals of growth by checking out Who We Are, our upcoming Events, or give us a shout at Contact Us. We can’t wait to hear from YOU!

– Jessica Mounts, Executive Director