The Wabash, Kosciusko and Miami County Soil and Water Conservation Districts have been cooperating with one another in a watershed project for the better part of this decade. Working also with Manchester University, their goal is to convince farmers and landowners why they should adopt conservation practices to help improve water quality in their watersheds.
The watershed of chief concern is the Eel River, which touches all three counties, either directly or with its tributaries. Manchester University is doing water quality assessments as the program continues. The districts are now in their second grant from EPA, a section 319 grant each time. Part of the money is set aside for cost-share. Part is used for education- both of farmers and non-farmers.
The districts have used the three ‘f’s effectively so far. Here is a tongue-in-cheek list.
1 - ‘F’ is for food!
This technique is as old as farming and farmers going to meetings. And I must say, I fall for it every time. One of the draws these three districts use when holding joint meetings on this project is to prepare what’s called ‘creek bank’ potatoes. I’ve heard about them for decades - but never had them.
Susi Stephan, Wabash County SWSCD coordinator, says they have had creek bank potatoes when they have held events. Supervisors of the various district usually prepares them. It involves grilling and potatoes - oh my!
And if you're interested here's the recipe.
2 - ‘F’ is for fun!
Many activities carried out under the educational portion of the program are actually fun and educational at same time, Stephan reports. If there is fun and food, people will show up.
3 - ‘F’ is for float!
Say what? Yes, for a river float. Stephan says they held a river float, where people went down the Eel River in canoes to learn about the river firsthand. She says 500 people have participated. Darci Zolman, Kosciusko County SWCD coordinator, took on the role of explaining the value of mussels at one of the stops associated with a river float. Mussels are one of the species often affected when water quality is impaired. Water quality in the Eel river was declared impaired several years ago. One of the main problems was sediment. That’s what the project is trying to fix, Stephan says.
-Darrell Boone contributed to this story. He writes from Wabash.