Lee Tesdell on Agriculture

Last night Lee Tesdell spoke with us about his farming practices.  Lee and I, and our brothers Jon Tesdell and Randy Kisling, attended Scattergood Friends School in the late 1960’s.  The School’s name has been changed to Scattergood Friends School and Farm, because this Quaker boarding school in on a working farm near West Branch, Iowa, which plays a large role in the students’ education. Students rotate through various crews to do the work needed at the school. Some of the crews are dishes, pots and pans, laundry, various cleaning crews, bread baking, dinner prep, etc. So one thing the School does, especially for those who didn’t live on farms, was turn us, sort of, into farmers.

Lee Tesdell Lee spoke about his Century Farm, “located on Alleman Creek in the 76,000 acre Fourmile Creek Watershed, Lincoln Township, Polk County, Iowa.” Most of the following is from the fact sheet he handed out.

Farm Goal: Enhance soil health and water quality while we produce good grain yields and say financially sound.

History

We are the southern tip of the Des Moines Lob which was last glaciated about 12,000 years ago; human occupation followed soon after. In Iowa, simple agriculture emerged about 5,000 years ago; human occupation followed soon after. In Iowa, simple agriculture emerged about 5,000 years and Native American peoples ere growing maize and other crops here by about 1,100 years ago. (Note, some of the Native Americans here indicated that the agriculture wasn’t really simple. For example, a number of kinds of maize were developed.)

Themes

  • Industrial grain production degrades our water quality, so we should do our part to solve the problem.
  • Farm management focused on the long term leads to improved water quality and soil health; short-term yield-based farming is harmful to the natural environment.
  • Operators and owners need to work together to implement science-based conservation practices.

Farm Drainage and Crops

  • Three modern drainage tiles: two on terraces and one on the waterway. Several older clay tiles.
  • Five acres of alfalfa/orchard grass hay. About ten acres of creek and buffer strips.

Conservation Practices : In-field and edge-of-field

In-Field

  • No-till soybean/corn rotation since 1993
  • Cover crops since 2012. On August 30, 2017 we seeded cereal rye and tillage radishes into standing corn with a Hagie. Planted SB on April 28, 2018. On September 1, 2018 we aerially seeded rye, vetch, lentils, and rapeseed

Edge of Field

Waterway on south end (built and tiles in 2010.

Brome grass strips (50 feet on both sides) along Alleman Creek (seeded 2000, re-enrolled 2015).

Three east-side terraces designed by NRCS (build and tiled April 1991) and one west-side terrace (built and tiled in May 2010).

Woodchip bioreactor designed by NRCS installed by local contractor (November 2013). Since May 2014, with 4 years of data, we show that we have reduced the nitrates in this tile water by 53%. Note that our nitrate load is already low and some water may bypass the bioreactor in heavy flow times.

Saturate buffer on west of creek installed September 1,2017 on neighbor’s tile. First 7 data points show 93% denitrification.

Prairie strips on east side of creek incorporating the three existing terraces seeded November 25, 2017. Several native plant species identified summer 2018. Mowed three times during summer.

Unfortunately I don’t have time to write about the very interesting discussion that many people participated in. Hope to do that soon.

Last night as we were talking about helping each other, especially as we prepare to leave each morning. Donnielle Wanatee said, you are now a tribe! Welcome to the trip, look for where you might help.

Time to march.

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