Successful Conservation Partnerships in Fourmile Creek: Lee Tesdell - Polk County

Lee Tesdell sat down with Amanda Brown, Project Coordinator for the Central Iowa Watershed Management Authority Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Project to discuss his thoughts about conservation on his farm.  

Q. Tell me about your operation?

My farm was purchased by my great-grandfather Severt Tesdahl in 1884. The farm is 80 acres in Lincoln Township, Polk County, Iowa. The 60 acres of row crop are farmed by my neighbors. The remaining land is in hay and creek buffers along Alleman Creek (Four Mile Creek Watershed).

Q. What water quality practices have you used on your farm?

We have installed many conservation practices on my farm such as terraces, streamside buffers, and a waterway. A bioreactor was installed in 2013 and is being monitored for efficiency by Iowa Soybean Association. With 21 data points so far, we are reducing the nitrate in out tile water by 47%. We have also changed our infield management by converting to no till and using cover crops. This is our fifth year of cover crops utilizing a mix of cereal rye and brown mustard. These practices are working together to reduce erosion, increase soil health, and improve the water quality of Fourmile Creek. In 2012 we received the Polk County Conservation Farmer of the Year for our efforts. 

Q. Why did you voluntarily adopt these practices?

After I became the sole owner, I wanted to increase the conservation work on this farm. I view it as my duty for the long-term sustainability of this land but I also believe that I should be an example in my neighborhood to show my neighbors what is possible in the way of improving soil health and water quality. I have a good partner who serves as the operator on the 60 acres of row crop. We share the management decisions on some of the conservation work and we share the cost of the cover crops as well.

Q. What, if any, assistance did you receive to incorporate these practices (financial as well as technical)?

My partners are USDA (NRCS), Iowa Soybean Association, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa State University, and IDALS through the Central Iowa WMA WQI project. These different entities have provided cost share and technical assistance on the various conservation practices.

Q. What is your philosophy as it relates to farming and the environment?

My philosophy is three-fold: 1. Think globally, act locally. 2. Work for the long-term health of our natural environment. 3. Landowners and operators should work together to conserve water quality and soil health.


Will Myers