Established CRP acreage holds soil, improves habitat
If Gary Rader were a school teacher, he'd probably give Thomas and Jean Murry an A+ for their conservation work.
As it is, the district conservationist, and Leon Stites, the county's extension agent, have recommended the Murrys for an award.
On Saturday, the rural Jarbalo couple will receive the county's conservation reserve program award for a 52-acre field adjacent to their house.
"They have done an excellent job of maintaining it and doing what they're supposed to do," Rader said. "If the material says they will fertilize it every year, they will fertilize it."
Because of their work on the grass, it's looking even better every year.
"Not only is the grass in good shape," Rader said. "They have maintained it in such a way that it remains in good shape."
Rader said the Murrys' land also includes about 16 acres set aside for wildlife, and two acres of farmstead.
Though not new to the area, the Murrys are fairly new to CRP.
Since 1958, they have called their farm east of Jarbalo "home."
It's where they raised their five sons -- Mike, Pat, Tom, Tim and Jim.
Tom and Jean, who were both raised in southeast Kansas -- Tom in Parsons and Jean in Chetopa -- met when they worked in Kansas City.
During the first years of their marriage, they lived in Olathe.
Tom spent 30 years working, until retirement, as a welder at General Motors in Kansas City, Kan., and Jean worked various jobs, retiring from the prison at Lansing where she worked in records and classification.
During this time, the Murrys' ground was farmed by an area man. When he decided to stop farming, the Murrys decided to put their ground in CRP.
In the past five years, the Murrys have been on a steady course of learning about establishing grassland.
The first rule they've held to, she said, was to listen to conservationists and to follow their advice.
"I think it's foolish not to," Jean said. "After all, they went to college to learn how to do all of this."
They planted their field in 1999, after treating the soil with Roundup, to kill weeds. They got a good stand the first year. And since then, in following recommendations such as fertilizing and mowing, the field has taken off.
For the Murrys, the timing was right. During the past year, Tom battled health problems. He's doing much better now, but both realize that having the land in an established CRP meant they didn't have to worry about the farm during days and weeks spent at the hospital.
And, Tom said, the CRP brings in a little extra cash.
"It pays the taxes," Tom said.
Jean agreed that it's worked out well.
"We're real happy with the program," she said. "We're happy we went with it."