Clayton County Award Winners Showcase Outstanding Conservation Efforts

On December 7, 2017, the Clayton Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) honored the outstanding conservation efforts of local farm families during the annual awards banquet held in Elkader.  Dan Rothmeyer, Brian Keehner, Joe Donlon, and Frank Livingood were among this year’s honorees.  Their farms showcase a system of conservation practices tailored to produce profitable crops, healthy soils, and quality waters.   

 Dan Rothmeyer received the 2017 Owner-Operator Award for the Clayton SWCD.  Dan owns and operates 365 acres of cropland in northwest Clayton County near Monona.  He continues a tradition of conservation work begun by his father, Joe Rothmeyer.  Between 1990 and 1998, Joe and Dan constructed over four miles of terraces to protect steep cropland slopes.  In 1997, Joe received the Goodyear Outstanding Farmer Award from the Clayton SWCD. 

Dan has continued to implement a combination of structural and management practices that reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss.  As soybeans were added to his crop rotation, Dan experimented with no-till.  He currently uses no-till where corn is planted into soybean stubble, or when soybeans are planted into corn stalks.  Dan planted a filter strip along Silver Creek in 2009, and established permanent cover on two acres of shallow soils in 2016.  Dan has planted a rye cover crop following soybean harvest each year since 2014.  The combination of terraces, no-till, and cover crops form an effective conservation system. 

 Joe Donlon and Frank Livingood were selected for recognition in the Landlord/Tenant Division of the awards program.  This division highlights the cooperation necessary to achieve the common goal of producing crops while conserving our natural resources.  Joe’s farm includes 166 acres of cropland south of Luana.  Joe’s daughter Janet and his son-in-law, Frank, have leased the farm for eight years.  Joe can often be found pulling anhydrous tanks in the spring, or following Frank’s combine with a grain cart in the fall.

In 1990, Joe started the first of a series of terrace projects.  The farm now features over three miles of terraces.  Frank uses a no-till planting system with continuous corn, which can be challenging.  Frank is always looking for ways to improve his no-till system and modified his planter in 2017 to ensure reliable down pressure on his planting units.  The system of terraces constructed by Joe, combined with the no-till utilized by Frank, ensures that very little soil ever leaves this farm. 

 The Clayton SWCD’s New Cooperator Award was presented to Brian Keehner.  Brian also continues a legacy of outstanding conservation work.  His parents, Leigh and Gloria Keehner, were Owner/Operator award winners for the Clayton Soil and Water Conservation District in 2005.  Brian operates tracts in the Monona and McGregor areas that feature the extensive use of cover crops and no-till used in combination with terraces and waterways.

Brian utilizes a no-till planting system for his corn/soybean rotation, and is a leading cover crop advocate.  Over the last five years, he has utilized a no-till drill, tried aerial seeding, experimented with a turbo seeder on a vertical tillage implement, and modified his corn planter to establish a variety of cover crop mixes.  In 2017, Brian added a broadcast seeder to his combine.  As he harvests corn and soybeans, he also seeds cover crops to protect his soil resource.

Dan, Joe, Frank, and Brian all own or operate farms within the Silver Creek watershed.  Their conservation efforts, as well as those of their families and their neighbors, are very evident on the landscape that surrounds the stream.  SWCD efforts that are currently focused on Silver Creek continue a tradition of over thirty years of watershed projects in Clayton County.  The tradition of conservation work that is demonstrated by these landowners provides an outstanding example of what we can do to build upon past efforts, and voluntarily work together to create water quality improvements.  

Will Myers