In the latest episode of the Conservation Chat podcast series, Jacqueline Comito interviews farmer Rick Juchems and his daughter, Liz. Rick farms in Butler County, Iowa, and is no stranger to conservation practices such as cover crops, grassed waterways, no-till and wetlands.
Rick started as one of the first farmer partners with the Iowa Learning Farms and has also served in various positions with Conservation Districts of Iowa, SARE, NRCS Butler County, FSA Butler County and the Northeast Iowa Research Farm. Rick won the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award in 2012 and continues to be a resounding voice for conservation in the agricultural community of Iowa.
Rick got his kids involved in his operation at an early age. He shared his spreadsheets and put his daughter Liz to work on data entry. As Liz said, “none of it was ever kept secret.” Along with this knowledge, Rick inspired his kids to look at agriculture from a different perspective. Liz remembers:
“We would travel growing up and [he] would be like ‘There should be a waterway there. There should be terraces here. What are they thinking out there?’ And now I do it as I travel across the state. I’m like, ‘There should be a waterway there.’ ”
The message stuck: Liz now works with the Iowa Learning Farms and promotes the same lessons her dad taught her early in her life. Liz coordinates over 200 events for Iowa Learning Farms and its sister program, Water Rocks!, each year. Many of these events include field days and other learning opportunities for farmers. Liz feels motivated to work in this role because, “It’s our responsibility today to take care of what’s going to be here after we’re gone. . . the fact that I have a role to play in the future of agriculture is incredible to me.”
This father and daughter duo continues to inspire those around them near and far. In Rick’s eyes, conservation doesn’t cost: it pays. What’s Rick’s main motivation?
“It’s trying to get the message out that we have a long way to go. . . The ground needs help, too, if it’s going to be there for the future.”
It all comes back to doing what they love. When they got together for the podcast, Liz commented on her recent travels through the state, saying, “I get excited when I see cover crops.” Immediately, Rick followed: “I did too yesterday.”
There are many more episodes of the Conservation Chat podcast available in the archives. Recent episodes include Dr. Matt Helmers discussing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and farmer Seth Watkins talking about conservation and happy cows.