By Ben Rodgers
Times Journal Staff
David and Leslie Meuer have incorporated conservation into their farm since day no. 1. This year they have been recognized with the 2016 Conservation Farmers of the year award.
“It shows conservation pays in the end,” Leslie said. “People notice when you conserve your surroundings.”
In it for the long haul, the Meuers realize that conservation is a marathon, not a sprint.
“You don’t see any immediate returns from the things you are doing,” David said. “Sometimes it takes 5, 10, 15, 20 years to see the return.
“The return won’t be in cash, it’ll be in soil quality, water quality, the wildlife and the quality of life.”
Things have a way of connecting on Meuer Farm. The beef herd rotates grazing land, which in turn presents new flowers to pollinate for the honeybees.
The water is from a spring feed pond, that same water is used in an underground irrigation system that feeds the strawberries. There is no deep well on Meuer Farm.
The black walnut trees planted as part of the conservation reserve program have started to produce too many walnuts to be picked by hand, as well as provide needed shade for deer.
“It all ties together,” David said. “That’s our motto: Farming, educating, conserving.”
The farm is also an area leader for agri-tourism, attracting more than 25,000 people a year. Up from 6,500 a year when they started tourism in 2009.
People come from all around to pick strawberries, or sugar snap peas. Meuer Farm also has a pumpkin patch and a 10-acre corn maze.
“People come here for the experience too,” Leslie said. “The farm experience, the fact they can talk to the people who live here, it’s part of the whole package.”
A gift shop sells food from the farm. David also hauls his crop to restaurants in Milwaukee and Madison. Some of the ancient oats and heritage wheat grown here
may even soon find it’s way into regional craft beers.
It’s the diversification of crops and activities, along with varied conservation programs that allowed for Meuer Farms to win this award.
“We’re looking for people that are dedicated to conservation through the long-range sense, where they recognize conservation doesn’t have a finish line, its something you do every day, and they exemplify that, because it’s so diverse they have different conservation challenges in each aspect of the farm,” said Jim VandenBrook, executive director, of Wisconsin Land + Water.
Wisconsin Land + Water is the organization that gave out the award, and has been doing so for close to 50 years.
David took the farm over in 1999, from his father who originally purchased it in 1969.
“He has expanded on that land ethic,” VandenBrook said of David. “That you’re always trying to learn what the land is trying to tell you.
“He’s adapted new approaches to conservation as they come along. It’s part of who they are. That’s one of the things we certainly look for, the continuation of conservation practices that goes back a long time.”
As winners of the 2016 Conservationists of the Year award, the Meuers will host Conservation Observance Day for Wisconsin from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday Aug. 26.
The event is being sponsored by Calumet County Land & Water Conservation, The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection and Wisconsin Land + Water.
The event is free, open to the public, and includes tours of the farm, lunch, speaker presentations, corn maze and conservation partner exhibits.
Meuer Farm is located at N2564 U.S. highway 151 Chilton.
Those who want to attend need to RSVP by Aug. 19 to Rose Faust at Calumet County Land & Water Conservation at 920-849-1442 or email Faust.Rose@co.calumet.wi.us.