A farm operated by Ray and Jami Helmer east of Marion has earned them and their landowner, Wanda Lewis, the 2022 Grassland Award from Marion County Conservation District.
Conservation efforts began under Wanda’s parents, Donald and Ophelia Jacobson, and continued under her after their deaths. She lives in Andover.
With Wanda’s encouragement and assistance, the Helmers utilized the Environmental Quality Incentives Program with cost-share to clear trees and brush, burn pasture, build fences for rotational grazing, and install a water system.
They praised range management specialist Doug Spencer for his essential part in providing information, guidance, and assistance in improving the grass acres.
The Helmers live on Ray’s boyhood homestead. They have been married for 22 years and have a daughter. Ray said Jami was his right hand when it came to helping on the farm.
He started farming right out of high school with his father, Darrel. They had a cow/calf operation, but when Darrel quit farming, Ray switched to a stocker operation. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, the price of stocker cattle plunged, and Ray decided to switch back to a cow/calf operation.
“There is less risk,” he said.
Wanda advised cattlemen to get trees out of pastures and stay on top of it.
“Ask for help if you need it,” she said, “and utilize programs like EQIP.”
“With the technology we have and the way things are now, you need to be willing to change with the times,” Ray said. “What worked for Dad and Grandpa in their time is not necessarily most profitable and beneficial now.”