February 1, 2022 – The latest round of Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants has been awarded to 36 farmer groups by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Farmers will use the funds to work with conservation organizations to address soil and water issues specific to their local watersheds. The Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council was awarded $33,600.
The Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council was conceived in August of 2016. At the first exploratory meeting 5 farmers were present. Since then, meetings have generally been held every other month but more often if deemed necessary by the group and especially so at times when events are being planned.
Meeting places are typically on-farm or at the local town hall. The group sets its own agenda and determines when meetings will occur. One member typically drafts an agenda prior to the meeting, photocopies it, and distributes this to everyone at the start of the meeting. If a member wishes to have something added to the agenda, they simply let the coordinator know prior to the meeting. Typically, this happens via phone call. Meetings are typically informal with light conversation occurring before the actual meeting start for up to 30 minutes.
A meeting typically is facilitated by one of the group members, but Matt Emslie from Valley Stewardship Network (VSN) and Ben Wojahn from Vernon County Land Water and Conservation Department (LWCD) are usually present and and provide support, technical expertise, and facilitation where needed. Food and beverages are almost always present and seem to help bond the group and add an air of informality to the meetings.
Meeting topics have ranged from soil health, cover crops, water quality, well water testing, baseline water quality data, efforts towards conversion to perennial pasture, alternative cropping systems, opportunities for grant funding, opportunities for the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs), National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and county programs, as well as discussion of the Farm Bill and export tariffs, among others.
The Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council currently consists of approximately 30 members, with average bi-monthly meeting attendance of about 15. Current Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council members represent over 4,000 acres (or 12.5%) of land in the Tainter Creek watershed. Individual landowners own anywhere from 40-1,000 acres. The typical landowner is a second or third generation farmer who is part of the group because they are interested in the health, welfare, and future of the watershed and the people and wildlife that live within it. They are interested in adopting changes in their farming practices that will lead to improvements in water and land quality.
The Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council Mission Statement
Demonstrate and implement best practices that improve Tainter Creek
To gain a better understanding of the baseline surface and subsurface water quality in the Tainter Creek watershed and find ways to actively improve it; to get a better understanding of the public perception of farmers, and to find ways to actively improve those perceptions through outreach and education; and to find ways to reduce the effects of floods.
Dave Krier, VSN Water Quality Coordinator, presenting results of surface water testing to the Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council in January, 2019.