All posts by Kelcie Sweeney

It’s National Farmers Market Week!

Rebekah Faivor, CTAI Technician

Did you know that this is National Farmers Market Week? Many small farmers attend their local farmers markets to be able to introduce and sell their produce, meat, eggs, maple syrup, honey, and other products to customers. Shopping at a farmers market supports the local economy and reduces your carbon footprint.  Here at the Clinton Conservation District we support local farmers by helping them implement conservation practices that can improve soil and reduce nutrient use.

Support local farmers this week and attend a farmers market near you! Don’t know how to find a farmers market? Go to the Michigan Farmers Market Association’s “Find a farmers Market” feature.

About MAEAP

MAEAP is a comprehensive proactive and voluntary agricultural pollution prevention program.  It takes a systems approach to assist producers in evaluating their farms for environmental risks.  The program includes applicable Generally Accepted Agriculture Practices (GAAMPs) established under Michigan Right to Farm.  This program also ensures producer confidentiality for any information provided in connection with the development, implementation or verification of a conservation plan or associated practices and is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.  There have been many local farms in Clinton County that have become MAEAP verified thus promoting environmental stewardship.  Some of the stewardship practices that will reduce risks may cost very little and take very little time to implement.  Other practices or structures may involve additional cost and may not be implemented for a few years.  Working with Clinton County’s MAEAP Technician will help you with a plan to reduce risks on your farm on your timeline.  Call the office today to learn more!

Eric Bak, MAEAP Technician, Clinton County

 

Invasive species injectors available for rent in Mid-Michigan

Injector Rental Program Flyer 2019

For more information, contact Erin Pavloski, Regional Invasive Species Coordinator, Ingham Conservation District, erin.jarvie@macd.org

The Mid-Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) has invasive species injectors available to local landowners in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, and Ionia counties. These injectors are useful for local residents to treat small infestations of invasive Japanese, giant, and Bohemian knotweeds and are best used when knotweed is in bloom- August into September. Through this injector rental program, the Mid-Michigan CISMA hopes to empower local citizens in invasive species management.

The injectors will be available for four-day rental sessions with a refundable deposit and staff will train you to use the injection system. Contact the Clinton Conservation District or local conservation district to learn more and reserve your rental dates:

Clinton Conservation District: 989-224-3720 ext. 3
Eaton Conservation District: 517-543-1512 ext. 5
Ingham Conservation District: 517-676-2290
Ionia Conservation District: 616-527-2098

The Mid-Michigan CISMA is funded in part by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program (www.michigan.gov/invasives).

Managing Your Land for Wildlife

Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

Aldo Leopold is credited with saying, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot,” this article is intended for the latter.

At our very core, people and animals aren’t that different. We want to be comfortable, well fed, and have a place to feel safe. The difference is that unlike humans, animals pay no attention to property lines allowing them to seek out where they feel most comfortable. We tend to oversimplify this in most cases by only putting out food, when in reality creating ideal habitat goes far beyond a simple forage base.

Picture this, it’s the peak of March Madness and you’ve been invited to two different watch parties. The first, is at your friend’s place with a decked-out basement complete with multiple T.V.s and plenty of seating.  The second invite is to your other friend’s place where the viewing area is not as impressive, but they live on a lake. Obviously the first invite is more attractive during the basketball tournament, but the opposite would be true if the invites were extended on a hot summer day. Similarly, wildlife habitat preferences change with the seasons. For example, during nesting season, pheasants prefer cool season grasses to provide their chicks with cover but during the winter they prefer switchgrass stands because they are sturdy enough to withstand the weight of snow cover. Providing all habitat requirements for the species you are trying to attract is the best way to encourage more to use of your land.

Seasonal preferences extend far beyond habitat type, too. They can apply to things like food, space, and how close other members of the same species are. We see an example of seasonal flock preferences in waterfowl. During fall, they group together to form big flocks in order to make migration easier.  In the spring, the same birds will split off into mating pairs so that they can raise their young with less competition for resources. Seasonal food preferences tend to be based on availability, making it important to have multiple food sources that come available at different times of the year to hold wildlife longer. We can observe this in our deer population through the way that they will ignore turnip greens during the fall but eat them during the winter when they are some of the last green vegetation to persist. All things to consider when trying to enhance your wildlife habitat.

The point is that while some habitat components may have more of an impact on whether or not certain species utilize your land, a holistic approach to habitat management is the best way to get your target species to hang around more often. Take your time, do the research, and do your best to provide the wildlife species that you’re interested in with all the things that it needs to be successful and flourish throughout the year.

Resources for habitat enhancements:

https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79136_79608—,00.html

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/mi/programs/

https://www.michigandnr.com/publications/pdfs/huntingwildlifehabitat/landowners_guide/Introduction/Intro_to_Wildlife_and_Hab.htm

 

Stop the spread of aquatic invasive species: Remember to clean, drain, dry and dispose!

Erin Pavloski, Regional Coordinator, Mid-Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area

As summer weather arrives, we look forward to days spent at Michigan lakes and rivers. Whether you enjoy boating, paddling, fishing or floating, you can help to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) by following these easy steps from Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!:

1. “ CLEAN off visible aquatic plants, animals and mud from all equipment before leaving water access.
2. DRAIN motor, bilge, livewell and other water containing devices before leaving water access.
3. DRY everything for at least five days OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
4. DISPOSE of unwanted bait, worms and fish parts in the trash. When keeping live bait, drain bait container and replace with spring or dechlorinated tap water. Never dump live fish or other organisms from one water body into another.”

Make sure you know Michigan’s boating and fishing laws regarding AIS.

This summer, the Mid-Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) will be at local boat launches partnering with Michigan State University’s Mobile Boat Wash crew and hosting AIS Landing Blitzes with CISMA partner organizations to talk about AIS with aquatic-based recreationists in our four-county area.

Stop by one of the following events for a free boat wash and AIS materials:
● July 6 from 10:00 am-2:00 pm at Morrison Lake
● July 7 from 10:00 am-2:00 pm at Lake Lansing
● July 12 from 9:00 am-1:00 pm at Park Lake
● July 13 from 9:00 am-2:00 pm at Jordan Lake

It’s up to all of us to protect our water from aquatic invasive species. Remember to clean, drain, dry, and dispose!

Finding Your Spark

Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

A conservationist is defined as any person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife. An all-encompassing term that describes anyone who is a good steward of the land. For most, the journey down the conservationist path  started far before they ever realized. It started with some innocent or seemingly insignificant experience that ended up being the foundation in which the conservationist was built on.

For this conservationist, the spark for caring about our natural resources was lit in a rural part of southern Michigan.

It wasn’t much. A few acres of glorified mud puddle that was referred to as simply “the lake”. Except for a small swimming area and fishing dock, the shoreline of the lake was untouched and only discernible by where the lily pads met the cattails. It was on this body of water that I was introduced to my first love, fishing. While trying to understand what made the fish tick, I began to see how everything was connected – my own personal Ecology 101 course that came years before I received any kind of formal schooling on the matter. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that there is an entire career field dedicated to conservation. What I didn’t realize at the time is that this job is much more than fish and plants.

Using the words “Uphill battle” to describe implementing conservation would be a gross understatement. It’s a constant fight against invasive species, people that refuse to care, and, of course, a lack of funding. Not just in non-profit organizations either, they’re problems that nearly every job in the field of conservation is facing.  I’ve seen it push plenty of people to pursue a different career path simply due to job security and a higher earning potential. Though it may be easy to get discouraged and dwell on the daily challenges, it is important to remember what got you started on your journey in the first place.

Aldo Leopold said it best when he said, “We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall see absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

When it feels as though you’re fighting a losing battle, sometimes all it takes to give yourself some perspective is rediscovering your spark.

Michigan Seasonality

Rebekah Faivor, CTAI Technician

Did you know Michigan grown strawberries are available starting in June? Those sweet, almost miniature-sized berries, compared to California-sized, are one of the first fruits you will find at the outdoor farmers market. Fruit and vegetable plants cannot produce food all year here in Michigan due to the cold winters. In fact, many vegetables and fruits are only available for a short period of time. Rhubarb and Asparagus, for example, are usually only available 6-8 weeks Mid-April through Mid-June. Have you ever tried eating fruits and vegetables when they are only grown in Michigan? People who do this are eating seasonally.

Did you know? Produce that is shipped across the country is usually picked before it is fully ripe so it arrives to the final destination intact. This shipped produce is often not as flavorful as fruits and vegetables picked at peak ripeness. Locally grown produce uses less energy and resources than unseasonal produce shipped from other countries or states.

How do local farmers offer vegetables all year? Farmers have come up with innovative ways to expand the local growing season. Some farmers use row covers to get an early start, others use heated greenhouse, still others use unheated high tunnels. Some crops like apples, onions, and carrots are easily stored through the winter making them available for a longer period of time.

How can you eat more seasonal produce? Check out the MSU Center of Food Systems Michigan Guide to What’s in Season Now to see what vegetables and fruits are available now. Shop at your local farmers markets, join a local farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Share program, or eat at restaurants that purchase their fruits and vegetables from a local farmer and have a seasonal menu. 

Three Ponds Farm

Everyone waits for the time in their life where they can relax, take vacations, sun tan, and sleep in every day. Most people cannot wait for the day they can spend time slowing down.  John Maahs and Edythe Hulbert had a different plan in mind. After moving from the city, John and his wife Edythe bought 80 acres in rural Dewitt, MI naming it Three Ponds Farm.

Together they raise sheep, dairy and meat goats, pigs, and poultry. They also grow a large garden, pick fruit, tend beehives and pollinator habitat, make cheese, manage forest, and work 65 acres of pasture and hay. They sell their eggs locally to different restaurants and stores wholesale as well as retail at the farm. Whether they are collecting dozens of eggs from the free-range chickens and ducks, kidding newborn and lambs, or enjoying the daily chaos. Each day on Three Ponds Farm is filled with life and adventure.

Before they bought the farm, John worked as a builder in the city. Edythe worked in the medical field. Together they made the decision to move onto the farm to spread out, enjoy their hobbies, live off the land, and be in nature. Today they have been on Three Ponds Farm for 30 years, growing food for themselves and their community.

As they both share a great love for the land, they were drawn into the local conservation district office through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, or MAEAP. Creating a sustainable farm is important to them. It’s something they say everyone should be doing anyway.

Since they first came into the conservation district, they have been working with the local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office to improve the farm through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). They started a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan written to better manage their growing operation. This plan gives a complete inventory of the farm, including needs, goals, and conservation concerns. They used their CNMP as a starting place and applied for the EQIP program to put some conservation practices into action.

One of the first projects completed was nine acres of pollinator habitat specially designed for bees. Although it took a few years to establish, this year they completed their first prescribed burn to help maintain the habitat naturally. This is a healthy grassland management practice that encourages and accelerates the growth of wildflowers.

Click for more information on NRCS programs or MAEAP or contact the Clinton Conservation District.

Katie Hafner, Soil Conservationist

2019 Summer Workshop Series

2019 Summer Workshop Series Flyer

Join Clinton, Ionia, and Ingham Conservation Districts for our Summer Workshop Series!

Four nights, four topics, and free to attend. Workshops will be held on Tuesday nights 6:00-8:00pm on various farms in the area. Light refreshments and snacks will be provided.

June 18- Clinton County: Roller Crimper Demonstration

AgroLiquid North Central Research Station 5605 N Findlay Rd, St. Johns

This is a hands on demonstration of the no-till planting soybeans into a crimped rye cover crop. Representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Mandako, and MAEAP will be on hand to discuss soil and land conservation, crimping equipment, Farm Bill programs, and previously planted soybean plots. Dinner will be provided for attendees courtesy of AgroLiquid.

June 25- Clinton County: Drainage Technology with Paul Sweeney

Stoney Creek Essential Oils field near 4507 S Francis Rd St. Johns

An interactive workshop on drainage water management, irrigation and fertigation to help answer questions and get you thinking about the next step in your farm management practices. An in-depth session will be held earlier in the day. Contact our office for information on both events.

July 9- Ionia County: Unbiased Soil Recommendations

Jeff Sanborn Farm 10277 Keefer Hwy, Portland

A short shop presentation on how to decipher your current soil tests. So often we as farmers rely solely on what the fertilizer companies tell us to apply. Do you really need it? What are some other alternatives? What do your nutrient levels say about your fields? NRCS Soil Conservationist Josh Davis explains your soil tests- unbiased. Cost share information on implementing nutrient management practices will also be available.

July 30- Ingham County: Supporting Agriculture with Hoop Houses and Greenhouses

MSU Student Organic Farm 3291 College Rd, Holt

Topics covered will include the benefits of using a hoop houses greenhouses and incorporating them into your existing production, pest and nutrient management considerations specific to this type of agriculture and the local, state and federal support available to growers. Please register for this event on Ingham Conservation District’s Facebook page or by calling our office.

 

All workshops will count towards a MAEAP Phase 1 credit. For more information, please call our office.