Creek buffer strips pay off
This year's conservation buffer strip award goes to Tom and Carolyn Norman.
The couple have established grass buffer strips along the banks of Stranger Creek just north of U.S. Highway 24-40.
"The purpose of it is to clean the water," Tom Norman said.
He explained that when the creek rises into his fields, the grass, which will reach a height of five or six feet, will filter the water as it flows back into the creek.
In turn, the buffer strips help protect the crops, catching some debris and preventing it from reaching the field.
Gray Rader, district conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the buffer strip award is presented by the Leavenworth County Conservation District to encourage landowners to establish strips along streams.
Norman's parents, Bill and Fern Norman, farmed the ground years ago, even before the highway was built at its present location in the late 1940s. Currently, Tom and Carolyn's son, Brian, lives on his grandparents' home place.
It's likely that later this year Brian will move to the Kansas City area, and Tom and Carolyn's daughter, Kristen, a recent Kansas University graduate who has been accepted into the KU Medical School, will live at the farm.
Tom and Carolyn, who married in 1978, have lived since 1979 about seven miles southeast of Tonganoxie. They have also planted buffer strips in this area. Tom farms, raises cattle and keeps rainfall statistics for the National Weather Service, as his father did before him. Several years ago the Normans were honored for their 40 years of NWS record keeping. Carolyn works in the financial aid department at Devry University in Kansas City, Mo.
The buffer strips, which run about 120 feet in from the creek, extend about a quarter-mile north of U.S. Highway 24-40 on both sides of Stranger Creek.
The grasses were planted two years ago, with the seeds being drilled into the soil even in the area where there are trees. The results were good, Norman said. And as the grass matures, it should be even better. Switchgrass spreads by sending out roots, as well as by dropping seeds.
While buffer strips obviously work to protect fields and water, they have an added benefit.
"It provides a lot of protection for wildlife," Norman said. "That way, they're close to the water, plus they're close to a food source."