The Saline County Conservation District conducted a tour of four farmsteads, including my own, in the northeast part of the county earlier this fall.

Our farms were recognized for various conservation efforts. Officially called the Bankers Award Tour, the group met for coffee and rolls before loading a bus and traveling to witness each accomplishment.

We stopped by my farm fields first. I received a water-quality award. Rapeseed, radishes and turnips were sown into corn two weeks prior to harvest.

Another field of double-crop sunflowers was visited that had seven species of cover crops including buckwheat, radishes, turnips, cowpeas, hairy vetch, soybeans and mung beans.

These companions aided flower production by keeping weeds out, shading the ground and supplying nutrients. The cover crops also reduce erosion, aerate the soil, mine nutrients and supply organic matter.

A third field on my farm we visited had been planted to an even more diverse mix, which included more grasses following wheat harvest. The plan for it is corn in 2015, so strip tilling will occur this fall yet.

After my farm, we stopped at a field along the Smoky Hill River, farmed by Pat Ryan. William McCallum and his family received a soil conservation award, and they have succeeded in protecting their property from river-bend erosion by tapering the slope down to the waterís edge, installing rock in the water and planting trees above the rocks.

Erosion had stopped, leaving the land and nearby house basically unthreatened by the riverís encroachment.

After that, we went to a pasture along Humbarger Road where Morris Rasher, who received the grasslands award, had kept trees and weeds out, successfully, allowing free and healthy range of several cattle. The stand of grass was tall and healthy despite the lack of moisture. Maintenance of the acreage had eliminated competition for the grasses that the cattle desire.

Our last stop was at Joyce Fentís house. Fent received the wildlife habitat award. She had several acres of trees cleared in two directions from a hilltop where she lives. Native grasses were now flourishing and game habitat had increased. The expansive view was enhanced from her property and showcased her efforts quite nicely.

According to Mrs. Fent, the area was supposed to be grass and not trees, so she undertook the act of tree clearing.

The group also toured the new DS&O facility in Solomon. Much was learned about the state-of-the-art facility and the hosts were quite upbeat about the modern building and the potential it has for the community.

The Bennington State Bank and the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce catered Hog Wild barbecue and the group enjoyed a nice social hour.

Mark Pettijohn is a no-till farmer in Saline and Dickinson counties. He has an accounting degree from the University of Kansas. He has three children Ė Gareth, 14, Chloe, 13, and Lincoln, 11.