Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Conservation work draws wildlife

January 24, 2007

Wild turkeys, deer, geese and the occasional bobcat all call the Grafke farm home.

The native grasses, ponds and inviting landscape keep them coming back year after year. And Nellie Grafke can keep tabs on all of them from her living room window.

This was exactly what she and her husband, Ernest, had in mind when they bought the land in 1995 and began building their house the next year. While the wildlife visitors have been a treat, their work on the farm earned them the Leavenworth County 2006 Kansas Bankers Soil Conservation Award.

"We bought it just as land," Nellie said about the property. "It was tree covered except for the crop land."

They immediately began work on the land, planting grasses. They hired A.F. Van Fleet Excavating to create the terraces on the crop fields that yield corn and soybeans. The grasses help keep the soil in place and the terraces stop erosion by preventing water from rushing across the fields.

While neither Ernest nor Nellie had a farming background, Nellie said Ernest's family always had big gardens growing up in Kansas City, Kan.

"We were just interested in the conservation and the wildlife," Nellie said about the work on the farm. "This was always our goal when he retired. We searched for land for years."

But having the terraces built is just the start. Since Ernest's death in 2005, Nellie has taken over the duties on the farm. Maintenance of the land has also been a big part of earning the award. The terraces were repaired this last year because one of them was not draining. While Nellie has some help from the Brant family, who farms the land, she said she's trying to learn the ropes.

"My husband handled all of it," she said. "Wanting to stay here, I've started educating myself on everything. We've enjoyed the wildlife and hopefully we'll keep it to the point where we'll keep attracting them."

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