Nieburs named County Soil and Water Conservation winners
PLUM CITY -- Jack Niebur had a simple response to why, after all these years, he still is a farmer: "I enjoy it."
Niebur has been a farmer for the past 51 years, with the last 40 coming southwest of Plum City. It's safe to say he's seen many changes over time.
"There's new rules, new regulations," he said. "The government has gotten totally involved within the last 10 years."
As the popularity of farming has waned over the years, Jack and his partner, son Kevin, have to make sure they don't go under. One key is making sure the land they farm, 486 acres, is still usable.
"With these steep hills," Kevin said, highlighting the area they farm, "it's very necessary to stop erosion."
As a result, the Nieburs, along with fellow Plum Citians John and Connie Binkowski, were named 2006 Pierce County Soil and Water Conservation winners. They'll be honored for their achievements at a banquet, with time and date to be announced.
To keep up with current times, Kevin explained the two have been in constant contact with Steve Price and Mark Biel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).
"They've suggested what to do in regard to dams, waterways, contours and crops," Kevin explained.
For example, they've added five conservation dams over the years and have been with numerous agencies such as the Land Conservation Department, Farm Service Agency and the Department of Natural Resources. Some of the programs they've belonged to have included the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which reduces erosion, increases wildlife habitat, improves water quality and increases forestland.
"To be farmers, you have to be conservation friendly," he added. "...You have to preserve it because it's your income."
Farming has been in the Niebur generation for a long time, as Jack's father, John A., was a farmer in Nebraska and Minnesota, and Jack's grandfather, Henry, was a farmer in Nebraska.
So it's not surprising that, when Jack wasn't a farmer, it was always in the back of his mind.
"When I was in highway construction, I couldn't wait to get back into farming," Jack said.
Like father like son, as Kevin expressed those same thoughts.
"I'd always said I'd never do it," Kevin said, as Jack added he never pushed Kevin into farming (Jack and wife Dorothy have another child, Pam Marthaler). "(But), after two years in school, I wanted to farm."
Kevin has been at Jack's side the last 23 years as the two split the crops, while Kevin handles the dairy and Jack runs the steers.
To further exemplify the point from earlier, Kevin mentioned that, within a quarter of mile of their property, there used to be seven farmers who had dairy and now he's the only one left. And, in addition, the 40 cows he has is below average.
Kevin is continuing the farming bloodlines as Jack's dad, John, was a farmer of his own in Nebraska. To show how much times have changed, Jack showed records John kept from 1925 indicating one calf went for $26, three hogs for $12.75 each and 54 pigs for $10.25 apiece.
Then again, as Kevin later stated, "For commodities (milk and corn), we're not getting much more than what we did 50 years ago. Our input costs have quadrupled, though."
He did mention, "If the bills are paid and food is on the table, you're happy."
Who knows if the business will stay in the family, as Kevin and his wife "Punky" (Deline) have three sons: Spencer, 22, Lucas, 15, and Tyler 12.
"Tyler shows the most interest in farming and says he's never leaving," Kevin said. "But you just don't know with your kids, especially at that age."