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  • Last modified 109 days ago (Feb. 9, 2017)

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Farmer talks conservation after winning award

Staff writer

County residents Chasen and Ashlee Gann seem to have a deep appreciation for their land and have taken steps to insure its health for future generations.

“We just try to leave the ground better than we found it for the next generation, because if you take care of the ground it will take care of you,” Chasen Gann said.

The Ganns recently won the “Young Conservation Farmer Award” for 2016 for using thoughtful land management strategies.

“I feel blessed and real honored to be receiving the award,” Chasen Gann said.

The Ganns employed a planned grazing system on their land. He said the system involved using rotational livestock grazing to improve the soil and grasses in their pastures.

Using cow dung as a natural fertilizer in rotational grazing is the simple part. With a background in environmental science, Gann gets into the theory.

“Bison used to come through and wipe the whole area clean of grasses and then move on,” he said.

Living in the French Creek watershed district, the Ganns also use alternate watering systems for their cattle, which Gann said helps cuts back on erosion along waterways that lead into Marion Reservoir, and prevents nutrient loading known to contribute to blue-green algae growth.

“Alternate watering helps keep the cattle out of the stream and by doing that it also keeps the water cleaner in the reservoir,” Gann said.

He also has done timber stand improvement near waterways on his land.

“We’ve planted a lot of trees in the first 60 to 100 feet on either sides of the river,” Gann said. “It helps with erosion. We also implemented terracing, cover crops, and grass planting.”

He said that implementing all these conservation techniques rewarding but is extremely labor intensive with myriad input costs.

However, in acting on his holistic approach to land management, Gann gets help from the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS).

“It comes in handy in offsetting all the input costs,” he said. “A lot of times you can’t put your plans into action with just one man. It helps to have that money. You can make a larger impact.”

In the future, he plans to try patch burn grazing. In essence, he said patch burning helps increase nutrient value of grasses by making it more diverse,

“Picture a big pasture, say 300 acres,” Gann said. “You would burn 100 acres one year. In year two, burn a different 100, and in year three, the last 100 acres. It increases heterogeneity. Throughout history, the grasses didn’t catch on fire all at once. It happened over time. But when everybody burns everything all at once it can create a homogeneous landscape.”

Patch burn grazing can be advantageous in drought years and benefits indigenous wildlife, too, Gann said.

Last modified Feb. 9, 2017

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