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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.