Guest Blog: Making A Difference

Today’s guest blogger is Iowa Learning Farms/Water Rocks! student intern Pacifique Mugwaneza Simon, or Pac for short!  Pac is a fourth year student at Iowa State University studying Industrial Technology and Agriculture Systems Technology.  His family is originally from Burundi, a small country in East Africa, but Pac spent most of his childhood in refugee camps throughout Rwanda, Congo, and Tanzania.  He has lived in the United States for almost eight years. 

Pac

Pac setting up the Enviroscape watershed model at the Howard County Fair

Growing up in a different part of the world, I saw first-hand how agriculture and natural resources are vital to everyone.  A large percentage of people in Burundi depend on agriculture, but there are many problems. The amount of land available is scarce, while the quality of arable land is diminishing through over-use and erosion.  To make things worse, about 60 percent of the population still doesn’t have access to clean water because they don’t have anyone who can help them understand how to properly care for and use the available water.

I decided that I would do my best to educate as many as I can about water quality.  When I began looking for an internship, I could not find one that seemed like a good fit.  Then I discovered the internship opportunity with Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms.  Since then, I have been working with an awesome group of people who have such a large depth of knowledge and understanding about our environment and who do their best to help keep the earth as it should be. Throughout the summer I have been busy doing field work, such as collecting lysimeter samples and soil samples.  We have also been doing many outreach events, where we go out to different parts of Iowa and try to teach the people of the communities, and hopefully, in turn, they will help each other with local conservation practices.

I can honestly say I enjoy doing everything this internship has to offer me, especially the outreach events!  I like talking to the local youth about conservation in their community. Recently, I went with our team to the Howard County Fair.  It was one of my favorite outreach events because we had a lot of fun and when we were done we walked around and explored the different types of food the fair has to offer!

Pac&Sam

Pac and fellow intern Sam at the Howard County Fair.

Since joining the Water Rocks! and Iowa Learning Farms team this summer, I have seen what is best for us and the environment and what is not. I hope to one day return to East Africa, to Burundi, so that I may impart what I have learned. I want to help the people to work together to improve their soil and water quality.  I want this not only for agricultural success and clean drinking water, but to help keep the earth healthy as well.

Pacifique Simon

Guest Blog Post: The Right Thing

NOTE:  Over the next several weeks, our interns will each be writing a blog post about their experiences working with Iowa Learning Farms and Water Rocks! this summer.  Our first guest blogger is Brian Stout.  Brian is the son of Iowa Learning Farms partner Rob Stout of West Chester.

Growing up on a farm, simply, was a lot of work. For a kid, summer and weekends were supposed to be for sleeping in, but there were more of those early mornings than I can count. My dad, Rob Stout, was a hard worker, as were his father and grandfather. Though I didn’t become a farmer as they had, I benefited a lot through learning what a bit of hard work can do for the earth and for you.

As you can see, my dad had me helping him on the farm before my feet could even reach the pedals!

As you can see, my dad had me helping him on the farm before my feet could even reach the pedals!

There was still some fun to be had, however. We had a hay mow with a rope swing (possibly the source of an occasional injury in my family). The farm could also be a

Take a look at how high my dad's cover crop is with him standing at the edge of the picture... waist high rye!

Take a look at how high my dad’s cover crop is with him standing at the edge of the picture… waist high rye!

huge hide-and-seek area. Swimming through wagons of soybeans or corn was quite a different feeling than swimming in water. We had a pony when I was younger that I was small enough to ride on. My dad would even take me out for breakfast pizza after taking a trailer of pigs to market.

As a kid, I did not yet understand conservation practices. Without knowing it, I had actually taken for granted how responsible of a farmer my dad is. I didn’t realize that he was doing things differently than other farmers and leading the way to better conservation practices in our area. He started no-till on his fields in 1983, has been using cover crops since 2009, and just set up a bioreactor last year. He has a 9000-head hog operation and tests the manure and fields to determine how much manure to use as fertilizer, a job that I am sure kept me around enough poop for a lifetime.

ILF farmer-partner Rob Stout planting corn into the cover crop that he had sprayed with roundup.

ILF farmer-partner Rob Stout planting corn into recently-terminated cover crop – spring ’15

When asked why he chooses to farm the way he does, following good conservation practices, and trying new ones, he simply says that it is the right thing to do. Until I started working for Iowa Learning Farms, I don’t think I even realized that, as much work as my dad puts into farming, he puts just as much work into making sure he is doing it in a way that will protect the earth and benefit everyone around him.  I couldn’t name all the awards and recognition he’s received, but he doesn’t do it for that. He does it for the reward to the earth, knowing that it is our responsibility to take care of her, and for that I am very proud of him.

Brian Stout