What do a dairy farmer in Ripon, a father and son farming duo in Van Dyne, and a pioneer no-till farmer from Lamartine all have in common? They all live and farm in Fond du Lac County and they are all participating farms in the Upper Fox Wolf Demonstration Farms Network.

The Upper Fox Wolf Demonstration Farms Network is a partnership between NRCS, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Winnebago, Marquette, Waupaca, Portage, Outagamie and Shawano Counties, and the Green Lake Association. This partnership supports a network of farms who have volunteered to take on the task of demonstrating the best conservation practices to reduce phosphorus entering the Great Lakes Basin. The network will demonstrate to farmers and the public that the right combination of traditional conservation practices and other new, innovative technologies functioning on the landscape can produce viable and sustainable economic and environmental benefits. Each farm selects conservation practices to implement and demonstrate, to reduce erosion and sedimentation, control phosphorus runoff, and address other non-point source pollution issues. The network will also provide information, education and technology transfer opportunities to the public through field days and other educational opportunities and information dissemination strategies. There are 10 farms participating in the network throughout the basin, and of the 10 farms participating in the network, three of those farms are right here in Fond du Lac County.

Who they are:

Schultz Legacy Farms: Father and son farmers Dave and Dusty Schultz have been completely no-tilling their 1,700 acres near Van Dyne for 20 years. Two years ago, they realized they would like to start incorporating cover crops into their rotation. This led them to form a working relationship with Dana Christel, Soil Conservationist for Fond du Lac County.  Dana spearheaded a soil health program to work with farmers in the county to do detailed soil testing on acres where conservation practices were being implemented, to track positive changes in soil over time. As Dana got to know the Schultz’s, their innovative nature and their goals for their operation, she knew that they would be a great candidate for the Upper Fox Wolf Demonstration Farms Network. The Schultz’s plant corn, soybeans, winter wheat, rye for seed, and have incorporated some silage for neighboring farmers into their rotation in the past. Their involvement in conservation prior to becoming a demo farm is their extensive experience in no-tillage, planting rye cover crops after corn silage, and nutrient management planning. Their long term goal is to incorporate cover crops to the extent that fields will be green and covered year round. In 2019, the first year of the demo farms network, Dave and Dusty purchased and used a walker inter-seeder previously owned by Dave Brandt, a well known no-till farmer from Ohio. They did a late season interseeding, and are hoping to see success and good cover this spring during those critical snow melt and spring runoff months. They also planted a multi species cover crop mix of various grasses, legumes, and brassicas on all of their prevent plant acres this year. They are interested in utilizing a roller crimper for cover crop management in the future.

Schultz farm

Pineylawn Acres LLC: Ed Montsma and his wife Kathy farm 2,400 acres owned and rented  in southwest Fond du Lac County planting corn, soybeans, and wheat test plots. Ed has run a totally no-till operation since 1995, one of the no-till pioneers in the county. He participated in the Fond du Lac River Priority Watershed Project’s High Residue Management Program, a past program that encouraged farmers to leave residue on their fields after planting their crops to help alleviate soil erosion. Ed used cost share dollars from the program to retrofit his planter so that he could penetrate through residue and the organic layer and achieve proper seed depth and planting rates. Doing that provided gains in his crop production and saved time as well, making no-till farming something he wanted to commit to for the long term. Ed also practices on farm conservation by putting in grassed waterways and contour strips along with his no till work. Ed made a perfect candidate for the Upper Fox Wolf Demonstration Farms Network because of his already established long term commitment to soil health and conservation practices, and his openness to do more. His goals through the network are to integrate cover crops into his rotation. He did spring aerial cover crop seeding in 2019 and also plans to plant rye after beans, plant green in the spring, and trial interseeding cover crops into standing crops.

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Pollack-Vu Dairy LLC: Chris Pollack, his wife Kelly, and parents Larry and Deb own and operate Pollack-Vu Dairy LLC of Ripon, Wisconsin. They are a dairy farm, but they are diverse, raising beef cattle, growing canning crop peas, growing additional crops, and doing custom work as well. Chris grew up farming and he is very passionate about it. He stated “while it is challenging right now for farmers, it still doesn’t take away from the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment of finishing things and seeing the result of your work.” Beyond full time farming, family, and being a part of the demo network, Chris also serves as Vice President of the Fond du Lac County Farm Bureau and is a member of the Fond du Lac County Forage Council. In 2015, Chris was honored to be selected to participate in a program with the American Farm Bureau. Chris also hosted a field day for Green Lake Association in 2018, with over 100 attendees including farmers, shoreline home owners and other community members. The field day included a soil health demonstration, rainfall simulator, and a nutrient management planning panelist discussion. Chris’s involvement in conservation farming prior to involvement in the demo network includes some no-till acreage, contour strips on the environmentally sensitive areas of his farm, and writing his own nutrient management plan. The passion for farming, drive, and community leadership Chris has displayed made him an obvious candidate to serve as a farmer leader through the Upper Fox Wolf Demonstration Farms Network. Through his involvement with the demo farms network in 2019, Chris inter-seeded a cover crop into V4 stage corn. His future goals through the demo farms network are to continue experimenting with cover crops, starting low disturbance manure injection, and continuing to move toward more no-till within his crop rotation.

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Fond du Lac County Land and Water Conservation Department plays an important role in the Upper Fox Wolf Demonstration Farms Network. The county supports the network financially by paying into the network annually. The funding that the county utilizes for the network is a new source of funding called “multi-discharger variance” funding or MDV funding. This funding is provided to Fond du Lac County from the City of Fond du Lac’s wastewater treatment plant to pay for practices and projects that lower phosphorus run-off in certain watersheds in the county. Beyond financial support, the county supports the farmers in the network through technical and planning assistance. Dana Christel, Fond du Lac County Soil Conservationist, is the lead coordinator with the demo farms and coordinates with agronomist Matt Brugger from Tilth Agronomy to assist the farmers in decision making about practices, project documentation, setting up demonstrations and field days, and the water quality benefits achieved from implementation of practices.

Why this project matters:

Healthy watershed basins provide critical services to communities, including safe, clean, and beautiful places to live, work and recreate. The environmental benefits of a healthy watershed include clean drinking water, swimmable surface waters, productive and sustainable agricultural land, resilient land capable of handling rain and flooding, and vibrant, healthy soils. Working at the local level with local producers to demonstrate what sustainable and economically viable conservation on working farms can look like, the project is fostering locally led solutions to protect soil, our most important agricultural resource, while working to improve water quality simultaneously.

To learn more about the Upper Fox Wolf Demonstration Farms Network, please visit www.co.waupaca.wi.us/foxwolfdemo. For more information regarding the demo farms in Fond du Lac County or the Fond du Lac County Land and Water Conservation Department, contact Paul Tollard by e-mail at Paul.tollard@fdlco.wi.gov or by phone at (920) 906-4672.