Why Prairie Strips? Farmer Tim Smith Shares His Thoughts and Experiences

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Tim Smith shows off his prairie strips, August 2016Tim Smith is from Eagle Grove, Iowa and farms 800 ac of corn and soybeans. He chatted with Lisa Schulte Moore from the STRIPS team on June 1, 2017 about why he sees prairie strips as a good option for his farm. He also shared some of his experiences as a farmer in establishing and farming around prairie strips.

Lisa: How were you first introduced to prairie strips?

Tim: My first contact was at a soil and water conservation meeting in Des Moines. There was table with brochures about prairie strips. I talked to someone there and also took some supplemental information. It got my wheels turning because I had just implemented some other practices, cover crops and strip tillage, on my farm and I thought prairie strips might complement them well. I also attended a presentation where Seth Watkins, one of the first cooperators of the project, spoke about STRIPS. I sat right next to him because I was presenting as well, and he made it seem like a good idea.

Lisa: How did you go about establishing prairie strips on Tim Smith seeds his prairie strips, March 2015
your farm?

Tim: I reached out to the STRIPS team to let you know I was interested. Tim Youngquist contacted me and came out to my farm. We walked the property, while I told him what I was thinking. He came back with some possible layouts. He also helped me with seed selections, then I went ahead and reached out to a native seed company located in Winterset. They gave me a price quote and I went ahead and bought the seed mix. I was planning on seeding right after harvest in 2012, but we had a cold snap and the ground froze early. I was reluctant to seed during that time because of the cost of the seeds. I didn't want them to blow or wash away so I waited until the following spring. From what I’ve been told I have a real nice stand.

Lisa: Do you think other farmers would be interested in implementing prairie strips on their land?

Tim: My prairie strips are located in the middle of my farm so the neighbors don’t see them, but something I notice is that my farm is always green in early spring whereas everyone else’s farms are still brown. Farmers need to understand their land, be aware of the erosion issues, and realize that prairie strips aren't an obstacle. I’d say the biggest thing to get other landowners interested in planting the strips on their land would be recognition of the value of the soil and that we are losing it. Another thing is knowing that prairie plants aren't going to cause you a weed problem. I mowed a lot in the first year and spot mowed a few places in the second year to keep the annual weeds under control. I plant my corn and soybeans right up to the edge of the prairie strip so as not to leave an open space for weeds to grow. Like I said, people say I have a real nice stand.

Lisa: What recommendations do you have for other farmers interested in prairie strips?

Tim: Do your homework. Learn about the benefits. I would definitely recommend going to some field days. Seeing a success story is going to help you get hands on. Walk through a successful seeding. I’ve come to the realization that a lot of people in industrial farming just want factory farms, just corn and soybeans, no insects, no weeds. They have got to realize that these prairie strips can coexist, and they even help. I also recommend learning about burning, and it’s something you can do yourself with a few tips and tools.

Watch a video about Tim Smith and his farm here. If you would like to learn more about his prairie strips, contact him at htimsmit@wmtel.com

Aerial view of Tim Smith burning his prairie strips in April 2017  Tim Smith's edge-of-field prairie strip, July 2016

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