Archive for Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Decades of diligence conserve farmground

Sharp takes farming in stride, keeps up with conservation

January 17, 2001

It has been said that a farmer never forgets his first tractor or his first kiss.

Without missing a beat, Walter "Buster" Sharp recalls his first tractor.

"It cost $900," he said of the gray Ford with a Fergu-son hitch that he bought in 1946.

Sharp, who has lived all his life north of Leavenworth near Kickapoo, is one of this year's 2000 Kan-sas Banker's Association Soil Conservation Award winners for Leavenworth County.

Sponsored in part by the Natural Resources Conserva-tion Service and the Leaven-worth County Extension office, the awards each year honor landowners for their soil conservation efforts.

Sharp still owns ground that his great-grandparents purchased in the 1860s.

He lives near the family's original home in which he was born.

Today, the land remains similar to when his ancestors arrived, roller-coaster hilly with slopes descending into creek beds and gullies.

A life-long farmer, Sharp's operation includes 130 acres he owns, as well as 434 acres he rents. On his owned land, he has 31 acres of pasture, 27 acres of hay, 51 acres in crops and a homestead and creek area. He runs a cow-calf herd on 80 acres of the rented ground.

Sharp's soil conservation philosophy is simple:

"I think we have to take care of the soil," he said.

This is particularly important in hilly areas like his, where heavy rains tend to wash soil downward.

To prevent soil from eroding, Sharp rotates crops, using no-till and low-till plowing, and keeps as much of the land in grass as he can.

His pastures are mostly fescue, he said.

"That's not the way I planned it, but that's the way it turned out," he added. He tries to control the fescue by mowing it as soon as it heads out.

Gary Rader, district conservationist, said one way to improve grazing with fescue is to overseed it with clover.

"Broadcast it out here and it will grow up and it gives the cattle extra feed," Rader said. "They'll work that clover so it doesn't go to seed."

But Rader said the clover must be overseeded every two years.

To control cedar trees on his pastures, Sharp had the fields sprayed last year. He saw good results, as it also killed thistle, but he was still guarded.

"Let's just say the moon was in the right sign," he said

Sharp said to give his brome pastures a boost, he applies fertilizer.

As far as his prediction for the crops this year, Sharp wasn't overly enthusiastic.

"Probably it'll be as good as it has been the last year, which wasn't the best, but I'm not out looking for another job," Sharp said.

He's farmed all his life, and still remembers starting out with horses and mules.

"That was when we didn't farm nearly as much land," he said. "We just farmed a small portion back then."

From the horses and mules, Sharp advanced to the before mentioned tractor, which he doesn't have anymore.

But he does still own his second tractor, a 1951 model that he scooped up for $1,400.

He got his money's worth.

"I've still got it," he said. "I use it to mow with a little rotary mower that hooks up to it."

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