Eric Hoien is from Spirit Lake, Iowa and owns four farms in the region. He chatted with STRIPS team members in a phone conversation on November 6, 2017. The purpose of the interview was to better understand why he sees prairie strips as a good option for his farms and to gather some of his experiences as a landowner in establishing prairie strips.
STRIPS: How were you first introduced to prairie strips?
Eric: I first heard about prairie strips from an article in the Des Moines Register, and it seemed like a good idea. A lot of people don't realize that Iowa is the most physically altered state in the whole country. While there is no way for Iowa to be all prairie again like it was before European settlement, I think prairie strips are a great opportunity to reintegrate some of our native habitat back into our landscape.
STRIPS: How did you go about establishing prairie strips on your farm?
Eric: After I heard about prairie strips in the Des Moines Register, I reached out to people in my local USDA office to help me implement them on one of my farms. This farm sits directly adjacent to Big Spirit Lake, so a lot of people see it. I didn't want people to think my farm might be impairing the water quality within the lake. When I established the prairie strips on this farm in 2015, there was definitely a financial incentive to do so through the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). FSA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payment is better than what I can get for cash rent right now. I realize that will change given the current structure of CRP. Regardless of government programs, though, there are the benefits of keeping the soil and nutrients on the land, which are important for continued sustainability of my farm. I had some initial concerns about whether I could establish prairie in an agricultural setting. But now I have been a part of five prairie reconstructions, and all my worries have been settled with how smooth of a transition and how beneficial prairie is.
STRIPS: Do you think other landowners would be interested in implementing prairie strips on their land?
Eric: Why wouldn't they be? I understand the economics of it are going to change with crop prices and the availability of cost-share programs, but unless there is something I’m missing, this is all good stuff…there’s nothing bad about prairie strips that I can see like there are with some other conservation options. A couple of years ago, I flew over the Gulf of Mexico. This experience really hit me, this water quality stuff is real. There is a whole lot of Iowa in the soil you see down there, and that’s not right. It got to the point where I was wondering why anyone wouldn't be interested keeping their soil and nutrients from moving. I think it's great for my farm, it would be great for Iowa and the Midwest if a lot more people would do this.
STRIPS: What recommendations do you have for other landowners interested in prairie strips?
Eric: Field days are a great opportunity for people to get involved. The conversations you can have with the experts available at field days can answer question, and it’s great to see the results first hand. Also, check with your local FSA and NRCS offices – they are an excellent resource and can lead you in the right direction.
If you would like to learn more about Eric Hoien and his prairie strips, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.