Protecting Our Livelihood…

When I fell in love with my favorite farmer at the age of 18, I began to research his home state of Nebraska.  This interest in “where he came from” transferred over to my studies, and I wrote a research paper on the Ogallala Aquifer for one of my Environmental Studies classes at Dartmouth College.Ogallala_Saturated_Thickness_1997

At the time I did not realize it, but the Ogallala Aquifer is perhaps the single most important natural resource for our farm.  It is a subsurface body of water that underlies approximately 80% of the Hi Plains region of the country.  Nebraska is located above one of the deepest parts of the aquifer.

My favorite farmer teaching the next generation why water quality is so important!

Approximately 2/3’s of our crop ground is irrigated directly from the aquifer, and it is also our source for drinking water (although usually our family drinks it out of a facet)…

In addition to ground water irrigation, Central and Western Nebraska are known for surface irrigation.  Our surface irrigation system is comprised of a series of ditches and reservoirs that work with the Platte River to bring rain water and snow melt from North Central Colorado and Eastern Wyoming to our region.

The irrigation pivot north of the feed yard that uses recycled water in addition to surface irrigation water to help this corn grow.

The irrigation pivot north of the feed yard that uses recycled water in addition to surface irrigation water to help this corn grow.

The surface irrigation system described above, in addition to irrigating our crops, also works to replenish the aquifer.  Together with water conservation practices and more efficient irrigation methods, this surface irrigation system has actually increased the water levels of the aquifer underneath Central Nebraska during the last 25 years.

One of my favorite parts of summer is looking at the lush green of Matt's alfalfa fields.

One of my favorite parts of summer is looking at the lush green of Matt’s alfalfa fields.

Water, quite literally, brings life to our farm.  Our family, our animals, and our crops cannot survive without it.  It is paramount for Matt and I to take care of our water supply—our farm is not sustainable without it.

The promise of life...

The promise of life…

The use of soil water probes, center pivots, and water recycling practices all play a role in the conservation of our precious water sources.  However, we must not only conserve the surface and ground water but also to protect the quality of the life-giving aquifer.

In partnership with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, I began Ground Water Monitoring testing at the feed yard in 2003.  I test the ground water (its depth and its quality) two times per year in five different strategically placed wells surrounding the feed yard.

Taking a water sample out of one of the five testing wells that surround the feed yard.

Taking a water sample out of one of the five testing wells that surround the feed yard.

This allows me (and the NDEQ) to monitor the depth of ground water surrounding our farm, track the directional flow of the water, and ensure that ground water quality is not negatively impacted by my feed yard.  In its simplest form, Ground Water Monitoring is my report card of the job that I do to responsibly manage the nutrients on my farm.DSC03742

Twenty years ago, when I met my favorite farmer, I had no idea that I would become a key contributor to our farm and the protection of its natural resources.  Today, I wear many hats:  American, Wife, Mom, Cattle Feed Yard Boss Lady, Caregiver of Natural Resources.  I wear them all with pride, never forgetting that my responsible diligence determines the environmental sustainability of my livelihood.


Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General, Sustainable Spring

9 responses to “Protecting Our Livelihood…

  1. Very interesting… I learned my new thing today 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Glad that you enjoyed it and learned something too! I have learned so very many things in the last 20 years—probably best of all, I have learned to be a “student of life”, so the learning never ends.

      Take care,

  2. My father-in-law has a bumper sticker on his truck that reads, “Farmers are the first conservationists.” No one cares for the land more. Thanks for this story, Anne 🙂

    • Aimee,

      Love the bumper sticker! It is very true–the land is our livelihood and we must protect it so that it can provide for us. Thanks so much for reading and sharing on Facebook and Twitter. I so much appreciate your help in spreading the word!


  3. Rex

    Get post Anne.
    After 10 years, what does the water quality and quantity report card show?
    It seems a proven fact to many people that a CAFO pollutes, yet with the regulations in place that are carefully followed, I wonder where they get their data?

    • Hi Rex,

      I was one of the first in the state to start Ground Water Monitoring, so much of the first 10 years have been spent learning what the results mean and how to interpret them. It has been a very interesting learning experience and I think that they look good. The new lined LWCF that I have should help to continue to protect the ground water in the future (I built it in the fall of 2011).

      Somehow feed yards have gotten themselves a negative connotation in the eyes of many, but I agree with you that most are good environmental stewards.

      As always thanks for reading and commenting,

  4. great post!!!!!! Thank you for sharing!

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