Knowing that farmers listen to and trust other farmers, the Douglas County Soil Conservation Service has announced plans for a program that will give farmers an opportunity to learn about conservation practices from the people who use them.
SCS and the Douglas County Conservation Board held a meeting Tuesday evening to discuss a ``neighbor-to-neighbor'' program. The concept, which originated in Missouri, encourages farmers to take self-guided tours of area farms to view various soil conservation methods in place, said Doug Gahn, district conservationist.
"Farmers can come back all year round to see how the conservation practice works," he said, adding that this will be the first program of its kind in Kansas.
ORGANIZERS hope to have 10 or 12 farmers as hosts, who will keep a neighbor-to-neighbor sign near the conservation practice site, explain the practice to visitors during specified times, keep the SCS office updated on any changes in the practice, and contact the SCS occasionally with the amount of time spent with tour participants.
Neighbor-to-neighbor notebooks will be placed at the Farmers Co-op, government offices and other places frequented by farmers. The books will include descriptions of soil conservation practices and a list of the farmers who employ each practice, plus maps to the farms.
The Food Security Act of 1985 required farmers to develop a compliance plan for conserving soil on their property to remain eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture farm program benefits. Farmers with highly erodible land were required to have an approved conservation plan by Jan. 1 of last year, and must implement the plan by 1995 to continue receiving USDA benefits.
THROUGH THE neighbor-to-neighbor program, farmers will learn the advantages, disadvantages, costs, procedures and other information regarding conservation options from their peers. Organizers say farmers are more likely to believe another farmer than a government employee.
"We know that farmers listen to other farmers to get their education and knowledge," Gahn said.
Conservation practices to be included on the tour include pesticide management, ridge till, no till, conservation tillage, grass strips, native grass management and terraces.
About eight farmers already have agreed to include their farms on the neighbor-to-neighbor tour, said Gahn.
"We want to highlight farms that successfully employ conservation practices, especially new, innovative methods," he said.
SCS and the conservation board will kick off the program with a bus tour of the neighbor-to-neighbor farms in late spring.