Farm Watershed Research
Because the region's hilly landscape poses some interesting issues for agriculture and ecology, the state's Department of Natural Resources and County's conservation staff wanted to look at watershed to see what can be done to minimize water pollution from farm runoff.
"Farming along hillsides, you lose all of your topsoil once a big storm comes along, and it can make things difficult for a producer, but then also difficult on the environment if it's not managed the right way."
Thats Devon Hamilton, with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. Hamilton said the study is still in its early stages, looking at how the land is currently being used and cared for and determining the "nutrient loading," or amount of pollutants that end up in the surrounding creeks. The next steps involve deciding on best practices for the land, estimating nutrient-load reductions, and reaching out to farmers and community members.
Hamilton said the idea isn't to create land-use regulations for farmers but to help them better understand the unique challenges of their landscape and learn to respond to them.
"It's more about understanding the situation in the context of that subwatershed," he said, "and then providing producers with the tools that they need to address what's going on there."
Many farmers want to understand the impact of their practices on water quality. Hamilton said he hopes the Institute will be able to issue best practices for land use in the area by the end of the year.