Jim and Melody Bourn | Southwest Iowa

Story Submitted by Dan Case, WQI Project Coordinator for the Walnut Creek Watershed Project

Jim and Melody Bourn have been active participants in a tremendous conservation effort currently underway in the Walnut Creek Watershed located in Montgomery and East Pottawattamie Counties. In 2008, the Montgomery and East Pottawattamie SWCD's began looking at Walnut Creek for development of a potential watershed project. The Districts were awarded a Watershed Development grant through IDALS in 2009, which was followed by multiple Watershed Improvement Review Board (WIRB) grants and a Water Quality Initiative (WQI) grant to facilitate implementation efforts. Since 2009, landowners in the watershed have installed a variety of conservation practices, including over 600,000 feet of terraces, a dozen grade stabilization structures, and a host of other practices including filter strips, grassed waterways, and cover crops.  In total, over three million dollars has been invested in conservation practices, which offer multiple benefits including improving the soil health and water quality of Walnut Creek.  

From the project beginning, Jim and Melody Bourn have been extremely active in conservation efforts in the watershed. Their land has been in the family since 1934, and conservation efforts are being continually implemented to ensure the land will remain productive and sustainable for future generations. Jim started farming with the help of his neighbor Doug Foote. When Jim started farming he observed how much erosion was taking place on his ground. He started attending SWCD meetings to learn more about soil conservation. Jim's interest in conservation led to his increased involvement and even a role serving as assistant district commissioner.  

The Bourn's favorite conservation practice is the beautiful grade stabilization structure (pond) he built in 2008 with assistance from the EQIP program. The Bourn family spend countless hours fishing, swimming, and admiring the view the lake provides. They built the pond to not only catch silt and improve water quality, but also to add some aesthetics to his land. He fears that future generations won't want to live in the country if all they have to look at are corn and bean fields. The pond is now a common meeting place for watershed meetings and events. Jim is now talking about adding a cover crop demonstration plot next to the pond for people to view and learn from at future events.

Jim has stated that, “the conservation work completed in the watershed has noticeably changed the quantity and quality of water in the creek in recent years”. This fall the Bourn's will try cover crops for the first time along with nitrogen inhibitor and deep placement of P&K. Jim says, "it makes sense agronomically as well as environmentally to implement these practices". Improving the health of the soil and at the same time conserving nutrients and placing them so they are better available to the crop is a smart thing to do. Thanks to Jim and Melody for helping make the Walnut Creek Watershed project such a success!