Dan Harms and his father, Roy Harms, are fourth and third generation farmers. Roy began his career at age 14, and Dan joined the family farm after graduating from Kansas State University.

Both have been proactive in addressing current and future resource concerns on their land.

“We farm together. We’re good sized farmers. We do corn, wheat and milo,” Dan Harms said.

The Harms are one of two local farm families to be honored with the 2015 Kansas Bankers Award for Cropland through the Finney County Conservation District.

“We’re pretty excited about it. It’s pretty nice to get recognized for something that you’re doing,” Dan Harms said.

Connie Richmeier, district manager for the Finney County Conservation District, said the annual award through the Kansas Bankers Association looks at farmers in each county across the state who are doing an excellent job protecting natural resources. A committee comprised of representatives of a local bank, the conservation district, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Kansas State University Research and Extension Service reviews nominations and chooses who they feel is the top steward of the year.

“If you feel one of your neighbors has done an excellent job, let’s say in developing wind breaks, you can nominate him or her for the award. But it’s an awesome opportunity to work with so many good stewards of our natural resources,” Richmeier said.

The Harms more recent conservation activities include the conversion from flood to center pivot irrigation and dryland, and utilizing the Conservation Reserve Program to target highly erosive areas. Roy and Dan also have improved soil, water and air quality through the Conservation Stewardship Program.

To Dan Harms, conservation means taking care of the land and being a good steward of the ground that’s been given to him, a fact that was always stressed by his dad.

“I’m the fourth generation out here, and it’s always been important to each generation to take the best care of things that we can,” he said.

Converting from flood irrigation to center pivot wasn’t too challenging.

“It was a pretty easy transition. There was a lot involved, but it’s a lot more efficient and a lot better than the flood was, a lot less labor intensive. We had good people to work with, both on the NRCS side and from Circle H, an underground specialist, to kind of help us out. They did a good job helping us get it done right,” Dan Harms said.

The Harms also worked on a highly erosive piece of land to reduce runoff.

“We have a quarter of ground that has a pretty good slope to it. When it’s that steep, the water really can gain some momentum coming down and washes that soil away. So we used a high residue grass in there to kind of establish a break to stop that momentum from getting going, and stop the erosion that way. On that same quarter, we also implemented terraces,” Dan Harms said.

Given well-published concerns the past few years about the draw down of the Ogallala Aquifer, the vast, underground reservoir of fresh water serving a multi-state area, it’s important for farmers to do what they can to conserve the resource.

Dan Harms said improvements in technology are helping ag producers to monitor more closely how much water is used and how much their plants are using. He said K-State offers a lot of research that helps, and farmers can use a program called KanSched, which monitors weather conditions and the evapotranspiration rate, which, in general terms, is the process in which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere through evaporation and plant transpiration, of the corn, milo and wheat.

“It gives us a more accurate idea of exactly how much water we need out there,” he said. “We want to see every dollar we can from every gallon that we use. That’s something that’s extremely important. We want to take good care of our precious resource. Once that’s gone, we’ve got a real problem.”

Scott is a reporter for The Garden City Telegram. Email him at saust@gctelegram.com.