Bob Eddelman sat on a bench and Mike Starkey sat on another one. Both were seated in the middle of the Pathway to Water Quality exhibit at the Indiana State Fair during Farmer's Day.
Eddelman is the former state soil conservationist in Indiana for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He is currently a member of the State Soil Conservation Board. Starkey is president of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts this year. He also is a long-time no-till farmer and cover crop believer. He farms near Brownsburg, and was named a Master Farmer in 2014.
"I remember when people wondered if this exhibit would really work," Eddelman says. "It was just a plot with very small, spindly trees growing on it that first year."
The Pathway to Water Quality has been an attraction for fair-goers for more than 20 years now. Those spindly trees are now near fully-grown, and help shade the site and provide an inviting atmosphere where people can learn about conservation.
One of the conservation practices demonstrated in the exhibit is cover corps. "Cover crops are a big issue again this fall," Starkey says. "Recently several cover crop farmers gathered in my shop. We agreed that this wasn't the best year for them, but we also all committed to going forward with cover crop seeding again this fall.
"We're continuing because we see the benefit," Starkey says. "I really like annual ryegrass in my system. "We're getting ready to seed now where we have open ground. We will seed 17 pounds of annual ryegrass and two pounds of rapeseed per acre. I'm going toward rapeseed instead of radishes because I think it may work better for me."
The rapeseed adds diversity and can survive most winters here, he says. Radishes typically winterkill and only contribute fall growth. They need to be planted early to be successful.