Local farmers making a difference through conservation practices

Annual reporting shows group continues to evolve their conservation practices

GRATIOT, Wis. – Local farmer members of the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance gathered earlier this month to celebrate the continual conservation improvements they are seeing on their farms as well as learn from leading researchers about innovations on the horizon.

More than 40 farmers, community members and affiliated partners attended the annual meeting to learn from each other and share the outcomes of the previous year’s conservation practices.

Shawn Wesener, Farmers for Sustainable Food data collection specialist, reported on LASA’s 2023 Member Conservation Practice Survey results. The 2023 results built on the previous five years’ worth of data, showing that all of the participating members are completing the annual survey, allowing the group to closely monitor the impact the continual changes are making. Most notable is that 7,000 more acres are now under cover crops to improve soil health and prevent erosion since 2018 and 57 percent of the farms now use no-till or minimum-tillage practices.

“Through our annual farmer surveys and additional data collection, we are seeing the adoption of practices like cover crops and reduced tillage is making a difference for overall soil health, water quality and nutrient absorption,” says Wesener.

LASA member Jim DiGangi and Andy Dvoracek from Amp America shared their recent collaboration between Darlington Ridge Farms and Amp America to install a manure digester to generate natural gas and decrease carbon emissions. When operational, the digester can generate additional revenue for the farm while reducing environmental impacts.

During the day-long meeting, Dr. Dennis Busch and Kishan Mahmud of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Pioneer Farm shared updates on key conservation research projects underway including a Natural Resources Conservation Service rainfall simulation project evaluating soil loss on conventional farms using plots compared to the use of cover crops or green planting.

As part of the US Dairy Net Zero Initiative, research led by the Soil Health Institute in collaboration with universities and other partners is investigating the improvement of soil health and water quality by using advanced soil health management systems, similar to the practices being implemented by the LASA members.

Alicia Bryan from Nutrien Ag Solutions reiterated the importance of soil biology and soil biome health in farm fields.

“Soil biology acts as the immune system for plants, helping it in times of stress,” Bryan said. “During a drought, for example, a plant will rely on soil biology to help it get through the stressful time period, just as humans rely on a strong immune system to fight off diseases.”

The day concluded with the group’s business meeting and board member elections. Mike Berget, Berget Family Farms, Jim DiGangi, Darlington Ridge Farms and Treasurer Ken Norgard, Paramount Calves were re-elected to serve another term on the board.

Other board members are President Jim Winn, Cottonwood Dairy, Vice President Steve Carpenter, Redrock View Farms, Secretary Jean Stauffacher, Highway Dairy Farms, Brian Schilling, Schilling Farms, Ryan Temperly, Nutrien Ag Solutions and Jason Rowe. Steve Fleming, Investors Community Bank and Dennis Busch, the University of Wisconsin Platteville serve as board advisors.

“We are encouraged to have so many people attend our meeting,” LASA President Jim Winn said. “Our group continues to support farmers in implementing new sustainable practices. It’s great to see our community taking an interest in our work.”

Farmers interested in participating in the LASA group can find more information on their website www.lafayetteagstewardship.org. or by contacting a local board member.


Andy Dvoracek of Amp Americas presenting

Dr. Dennis Busch of UW-Platteville presenting

About Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance:

Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance is a farmer-led non-profit organization with a vision of a community where farmers and friends of agriculture work together to protect and improve water quality and the environment. The group is based in Lafayette County in southwestern Wisconsin. More information: www.lafayetteagstewardship.org.