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Conservation in forefront even as Webster farm near Ellsworth grows

ELLSWORTH, Wis. -- Mike and Darcy Webster have a tradition of expanding their Town of El Paso farming operation since taking it over 25 years ago.

Along with their commitment to farm and family has come a determination to conserve on their land. That's evidenced by word they're getting the annual Soil and Water Conservation Award from the Ellsworth Lions Club, in conjunction with the Pierce County Land Conservation Department.

"I know a lot of people who would like to be farming," said Webster Wednesday about an occupation he's done all of his life.

His home farm was already a site for conservation practices, implemented by his parents, Bud and Pat, who bought it around 1957, he said. He described the soil as clay-loam and the main part of the property as "straight land" with a good Ph factor. He placed it at 6.9, saying, "it doesn't drop."

"The contour strips have been here since day one," he said, estimating they cover 80 percent of the cropland.

There are presently 240 acres in corn and 180 in hay, plus the new seeding, Webster said. Hail and pests have mostly been avoided, with the farm's crops faring rather well in recent years, considering some very dry late summer seasons.

"1988 was the worst...we were chopping CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) fields for the cows and it was all junk," he said.

Webster's folks put up the silos, he said, indicating two of the three are now used. Otherwise, he relies on bag feed. Fertilizer is primarily liquid manure, to which nitrogen is added where needed, along with starter. He hasn't had to buy feed; in fact, he's rented some acreage to others and is involved in at least one arrangement with manure traded for rent.

Read more in the print version of the Pierce County Herald Feb. 20.