Farmers for the Upper Sugar River

Next Meeting:  Wednesday January 10, 2018 at 7 pm. Meetings are located at the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association office (207 E. Main St., Mt. Horeb)usr_prodcoalition_logo5_color

Next Event: Our second annual Lunch and Learn is scheduled for sometime in February 2018. Date and location are to be determined.

Mission: “Ensuring the future of agriculture by being responsible stewards of the land and water quality in the Upper Sugar River Watershed.”

Beginning in May 2016, in partnership with seven local producers in the watershed, USRWA received funding from the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to kick-start a farmer-led coalition in the Upper Sugar River Watershed. USRWA and it’s founding producers who helped write the grant application are one of 14 groups around the state that will benefit from Wisconsin’s first Producer Led Watershed Protection Grants issued.

Press Coverage

DATCP article on the Coalition

11/25/2016 Verona Press: “USRWA looks to bolster new farmer-led group”

1/10/2017 Agri-View: “Farmers ensure, share watershed future”

field day pic
April 2017 Field Day in Pine Bluff

Years in the making

Receiving this grant is a culmination of nearly two years worth of effort. “Two years ago we made it a priority to understand the issues facing both the watershed and the farmers when it came to ag runoff,” said Wade Moder, Executive Director of USRWA.

“As a conservation group, things really started coming together and making sense when we brought farmers into the conversation. We learned from each other quickly, and it became clear a farmer-led coalition would be a great asset for everyone.”

Focus of the Group

Farmers for the Upper Sugar River is targeting the Headwaters Sugar River and West Branch Sugar River watersheds, which are both impaired due to excess phosphorus loading. USRWA, who is partnering with the farmers on the coalition, has already established baseline water quality data to help prioritize the coalition’s efforts. The overarching goal of the group is to bring together like-minded farmers, strengthen water quality improvement efforts, and leverage educational and financial resources in the future.

As a newly formed producer led group, the grant funding will be used to develop a mission statement, goals, and work plan for the watershed, in addition to recruiting more producers into the coalition.  Farmer education will also be a primary focus. In its first year, the group will host a field day and a “Lunch and Learn” educational workshop in partnership with Dane County UW-Extension’s Crop and Soils Educator, Heidi Johnson for all of the producers in the Sugar River Watershed. To further engage producers in the watershed, the group will also develop an incentive program to fund the installation of various conservation practices.

Producers currently participating: Brian Brown, Doug Brown, Sherry Combs, Shawn Connors, John Doerfer, Mike Duerst, Tom Duerst, Dan Esser, Dennis Jelle, John Judd, Mark Keller, Gerry Krantz, Jason Krantz, and Jerome Zander.

farm near belleville
Farm along the Sugar River near Belleville

Current timeline:

March-October 2015: Found a USRW farmer who was a known supporter of protecting water resources. Held numerous meetings over beer talking about challenges for both sides and how to best engage farmers

November 2015-January 2016: Identified ~10 farmers in the watershed who were relatively like-minded and potentially interested in creating a coalition

February 2016: Held a meeting with interested farmers about creating a coalition

April 2016: Submitted an application to DATCP’s “Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant”

May-August 2016: Developed a mission, goals, and formal group name. Enrolled five farmers in cover crop pilots.

September-December 2016: Created farmer mailing list, produced a letter, Hosted a “Lunch & Learn” workshop to introduce the group to area farmers, distributed checks to pilot cover crop farmers

January-April 2017: Planned and hosted a field day, created a protocol and cost schedule for 2017 incentive payments

May-August 2017: Begin conducting phosphorus testing, assist farmers with choosing conservation practices through the cost-share program

September 2017 – January 2018: Continue phosphorus testing, implemented cost-share program with 10 farmers, hosted a fall field day, distributed cost-share program checks, plan for Lunch and Learn

February 2018: Host 2nd annual Lunch & Learn workshop for watershed farmers

March-April 2018: Plan and host an April field day

Any producers living and farming in the Upper Sugar River Watershed are invited to join the council. For more information, please contact Farmers for the Upper Sugar River at farmers@uppersugar.org or by phone at 608-437-7707.