The idea for the first Conservation Station was born in the early years of the Iowa Learning Farms Program, which is now 15 years old. Today, ILF has three of these trailers that travel all over Iowa to farmer meetings, field days, schools, county fairs, etc., for education and outreach. They are equipped with displays used by ILF staff to explain water quality and soil conservation, and to illustrate best management practices.
ILF has delivered information to Iowa farmers and other Iowa residents since 2004. ILF continues to explore and exchange ideas with farmers and the public on the challenges and opportunities related to soil and water conservation practices, cover crops, water quality and soil health.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
The first trailer had a simple rainfall simulator used to demonstrate soil erosion, how it occurs and various ways to control it. The trailer today has an improved rainfall simulator, as well as a walk-through learning lab with information on conservation practices that can be used by farmers, landowners and city-dwellers.
“We need a number of different kinds of conservation practices put in place on the land to meet the goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” says ISU’s Matt Helmers, shown here explaining practices such as wetlands, saturated buffers and bioreactors. Helmers, an ISU ag engineering professor, works with ILF on water quality and management practices.
ON THE EDGE
“The trailer helps us better illustrate what we are talking about for the different kinds of conservation practices,” says ILF’s Ann Staudt. “We can show a slideshow with photos of a bioreactor or saturated buffer to people in a classroom or go to a field day and talk about the practices. But edge-of-field practices, for example, are underground and not visible. By having our on-the-edge Conservation Station, people can see and understand what these on-the-edge practices are and how they work.”
Each Conservation Station includes interactive demos that appeal to all backgrounds and ages of people and walks of life. This interesting display has games and a sandbox showing conservation practices on farms, which appeals to youngsters. The Watershed Game is another highly visual interactive game that helps make the concepts of a watershed and how pollution moves with water easy to grasp.