My #1NewThingForWater

Back in January 2015, program director Jackie Comito kicked off the #1NewThingForWater campaign, encouraging each and every Iowan to adopt one NEW thing that they will do for water in 2015.

The “1 New Thing for Water” campaign was inspired by ILF farmer-partner Laura Krouse.  Everyone in Iowa has a responsibility toward helping make cleaner water and healthier lands. It will take all of us – urban and rural, young and old – doing something!

So, back in January when the campaign launched, all of us on staff were instructed to come up with our own #1NewThingForWater and share it with the world.  Well, it’s now May… late May… the very end of May, to be specific… and you have yet to hear from me.

BUT that’s not to say I haven’t been thinking on it and working on it!

My #1NewThingForWater involves working with my HOA to address urban/residential erosion issues on our property.  Included below are several before/after photographs to illustrate the work that’s been done (with a guest appearance by Conservation Dog Jackie)…   It’s still a work in progress, but these recent spring rains should help get the new grass seed growing nicely.

How are you coming with your #1NewThingForWater for 2015?  We’d love to hear from you!  Send us an email, a photograph, or share on social media using #1NewThingForWater–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Ann Staudt


A snapshot of Steve Berger farm

Beans-in-rye_May 26-15ILF farmer partner Steve Berger took this great photo yesterday of his emerging soybeans within the rye cover crop. Steve farms in Southeast Iowa near Wellman. It looks like the cereal rye was lush this spring before termination; lots of biomass there to keep soil in place. Think of what is underground!  That Iowa sky is beautiful—as usual.

— Carol Brown

Memories of The Land Stewardship Project: Touching Hearts, Changing Minds

Land Stewardship Project Program Tri-fold 1When I was growing up in rural South Dakota, my mother would talk to crowds about the dangers of soil erosion and unsustainable farming.  She wasn’t a scientist, she was an actress.  Actually, she was a farm wife.

Let me back up and explain.  In 1984, the Land Stewardship Project of Minnesota knew that soil erosion was a problem.  They wanted to get people talking about solutions.  But they also knew that people are, by nature, skeptical – especially when prodded by those outside their community.

Land Stewardship Project Program Tri-fold 2

The Land Stewardship Project took an innovative approach, combining art and education to connect with rural communities across several Midwestern states.  They turned to a Midwestern author and environmentalist, Nancy Paddock, to write a one-woman show addressing themes of agricultural stewardship.

And, in a brilliant choice, they found local women to perform the play – women known and trusted by their communities, women with a solid Midwestern background – women like my mother.

My mother, traveling with a representative from the Land Stewardship Project, performed for audiences in church basements, community centers, even restaurants.  Following the hour-long show, the Land Stewardship representative led a community discussion reflecting on the themes of the play.

Phyllis Schrag and Family

Phyllis Schrag (center right) pictured with husband Larry, son Ben, and Ben’s family.

When I began working for Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks!, memories from this time in my childhood came rushing back to me.  I am proud of my mother for her role in helping foster healthy dialogue surrounding land stewardship, and I am proud of the chance to continue that effort through Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks!

-Ben Schrag

Comito honored with National Wetlands Award in Washington, DC

Congratulations to ILF and Water Rocks! program director Dr. Jacqueline Comito, recognized with a 2015 National Wetlands Award for Education and Outreach!  The National Wetlands Award Ceremony was held this evening at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, DC.  Six awardees from across the country were recognized for their exceptional work related to wetlands, in such categories as Education and Outreach, Science Research, Conservation and Restoration, and Landowner Stewardship.

Earlier in the day, award winners participated in a highly informative science briefing on Capitol Hill, titled Water Resources in the United States: Understanding the connections between streams, wetlands, and downstream waters.

Comito was nominated for the award by Clare Lindahl, Conservation Districts of Iowa, in recognition of her passionate promotion of wetlands (and many other conservation practices, as well) to people young and old across the state of Iowa. Read more about Comito’s award in our previous blog post Comito receives 2015 National Wetlands Award.

Program director Jacqueline Comito shares

Program director Jacqueline Comito reflects on the “joy of wetlands” in her National Wetlands Award acceptance speech.  The National Wetlands Awards are sponsored by the Environmental Law Institute.


Comito is presented the 2015 National Wetlands Award for Education and Outreach from Jeff Williams, NRCS National Wetlands Specialist.

Comito is presented the 2015 National Wetlands Award for Education and Outreach from Jeff Williams, Natural Resources Conservation Service/National Wetlands Easement Specialist.

Congratulations, Jackie, for this well-deserved honor!  Your passionate enthusiasm for all things wetlands is truly contagious!

Ann Staudt

May ILF webinar: Source Water Protection

Greenfield8-25-05I’m guessing that many people living in an Iowa municipality might not know where their drinking water comes from beyond the water tower. Where does your community’s water—or source water—come from? A nearby river or lake? Or from a well that pumps water from underground?

Today’s ILF webinar focused on source water and how some communities are improving theirs.

Rebecca Ohrtman is the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Source Water Protection Program Coordinator. She explained what source water is and where it comes from. She gave examples of three communities that are reducing nitrogen levels in their municipal water supply through a pilot project. There are 15 pilot projects going on in Iowa now. The projects bring many individuals and groups together to improve their source water.

Jamie Benning is the ISU Extension and Outreach Water Quality Program Manager. She talked about the how the Source Water Ag Collaborative is working with communities to reduce nitrogen levels in both source water and non-point source water.

There are many similarities between the Source Water Protection Program and the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which Jamie highlighted in the webinar. The urban-rural disconnect that many Iowans feel should be erased when we see how we are all connected by the flow of water.

Watch the recorded May webinar any time. The link is found on the webinar page of the ILF website. In fact, links to all of our 52 webinars are found here!

— Carol Brown

I Spy in the Rye…



My oh my, look at that rye! Just sayin.

I spy in the rye… 

… new student interns!   Our 2015 summer internship program officially got underway last Monday.  On day one (a cold, blustery spring day much like today), our crew of student interns travelled with me to the ISU Northern Research Farm on the outskirts of Kanawha to get some hands-on experience with water sampling and cover crops.

These plots are part of cover crop mixtures demonstration project, funded through a USDA-NRCS National Conservation Innovation Grant.  While the project is investigating cover crop mixtures, you’ll just see cereal rye in these photos as the other species in the mixtures are not winter hardy.

Kayla Hasper, Pacifique Simon, and Megan Koppenhafer search for the suction lysimeter to begin the water sample extraction process.  Photo taken May 11, 2015.

Kayla Hasper, Pacifique Simon, and Megan Koppenhafer search for the suction lysimeter to begin the water sample extraction process. Photo taken May 11, 2015.

From left to right, Brian Stout, Mikayla Edwards, and Bailey Griffin bottle up a water sample extracted from one of the buried suction lysimeters in our cover crop plots at the ISU Northern Research Farm. Photo taken May 11, 2015.

From left to right, Brian Stout, Mikayla Edwards, and Bailey Griffin bottle up a water sample extracted from one of the buried suction lysimeters in our cover crop plots at the ISU Northern Research Farm. Photo taken May 11, 2015.

Student interns for summer 2015 include:

  • Mikayla Edwards (Anamosa, IA) – Animal Ecology, ISU
  • Bailey Griffin (Kasson, MN) – Biological Systems Engineering, ISU
  • Kayla Hasper (Montrose, IA) – Animal Ecology/Environmental Studies, ISU
  • Megan Koppenhafer (Williamsburg, IA) – Environmental Science/Community and Regional Planning, ISU
  • Pacifique Simon (Des Moines) – Agriculture Systems Technology/Industrial Technology, ISU
  • Samuel Waite (Waterloo) – Natural Resource Management, Hawkeye Community College
  • Brian Stout (Ames) – ISU Grad, Part-time summer staff with Iowa Learning Farms/Water Rocks!

While they are all bundled up in these pictures, soon these students will be seen in short sleeves, caps, and sunglasses as they travel across the state to field research sites as well as outreach events including visits to schools, outdoor classrooms, field days, and county fairs.  Keep an eye out for their smiling faces at a Conservation Station event near you!  This is really an outstanding group of students, and I hope you’ll get the opportunity to visit with them and hear their stories over the course of the summer months!

Ann Staudt


Funds Available For Water Quality Practices

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has announced availability of funds to help farmers use the nutrient reduction practices below:

Cost Share Funds 2015


Farmers are eligible for cost share on up to 160 acres, with priority consideration for any farmer not already using these practices:

For first time users

  • Cover Crops = $25 per acre
  • No-till or strip till = $10 per acre
  • Nitrapyrin nitrification inhibitor for fall fertilizer = $3 per acre

For past participants in WQI funding or non-first time users – New for 2015

  • Cover Crops = $15 per acre

The funds will be made available in July, but farmers can immediately start submitting applications through their local Soil and Water Conservation District office.  Farmers are also encouraged to visit their local Soil and Water Conservation District office to inquire about additional opportunities for cost share funding through other programs offered at their local SWCDs.

Click for more detailed information about the available funds for water quality practices.


Liz Juchems