Nebraska couple create a refuge for wildlife on their farm | TheFencePost.com

Nebraska couple create a refuge for wildlife on their farm

Bobbie Kriz-Wickham
Farm Service Agency

About 17 years ago, the Buchholzes turned to the folks at their U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center to enroll part of their farm in the Conservation Reserve Program, a program offered by the USDA Farm Service Agency.

LeRoy and Marlene once raised cattle for beef and dairy, hogs, sheep and crops as part of their farming operation.

As the two approached retirement age and began renting out their cropland, they knew they wanted to create a refuge for wildlife near their home ­­— a place they have farmed together since 1959 and where Marlene has lived her entire life.

LeRoy and Marlene have been married and farming together since 1959.

About 17 years ago, the Buchholzes turned to the folks at their U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center to enroll part of their farm in the Conservation Reserve Program, a program offered by the USDA Farm Service Agency.

Through the program, farmers voluntarily enroll and agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. In return, the FSA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish planned conservation practices.

LeRoy and Marlene currently have active conservation practices including filter strips, trees, warm-season grasses and pollinator habitat. They also enrolled some of their land in State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement, a part of the Conservation Reserve Program that specifically focuses on improving wildlife habitat.

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WELCOMING WILDLIFE

LeRoy said the practices are working. The acres are flush with deer, pheasants, greater prairie chicken, turkeys, butterflies and bees.

"And lots and lots of birds. You just can't believe all of the songbirds out here," he said.

LeRoy prides himself on managing the acres, keeping a close eye on unwanted thistles and small elm trees that could take over without regular attention. He's been known to create brush piles for quail habitat and to delay a controlled burn because a goose was nesting.

It's common to see deer, pheasants, greater prairie chicken, turkeys, butterflies and bees around the Buchholz's property.

LeRoy and Marlene said they have received great assistance from USDA's FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as other local partners like the Nebraska Game and Parks and local Pheasants Forever chapter.

"Each year they thoughtfully plan habitat management and improvement projects, working diligently to keep invasive tree and weed species controlled, and ensure that plant composition remains diverse," Rebekah Jessen, Natural Resources Conservation Service soil conservationist said. "They pride themselves on the assorted habitat they have created."

USDA offers a variety of risk management, disaster, loan and conservation programs to help agricultural producers in the United States weather ups and downs in the market and natural disasters as well as invest in improvements to their operations. For more information about USDA services, contact your local USDA service center. ❖