Stopping soil erosion a tradition on Amerine farm

Mike Amerine--Soil Conservation

Photo by Clarke Davis
A large weir, or diversion terrace, to control the runoff and thus stop erosion on his farm is the latest conservation practice put in place by Mike Amerine, Perry.



by Clarke Davis
Part of Mike Amerine’s farm is flat and begins in the Kaw bottom and then rises upward above flood level to prairie pasture and timberland to the north and northeast.
Aptly named Hillcrest Farms, it’s been a challenge to preserve the soil with the amount of water that pours off his own land plus that of his neighbors’ that rises yet higher above the bottom land.
Meeting that challenge has garnered a Kansas Bankers Award for soil conservation. Amerine will be honored when the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District holds its annual awards banquet at noon Jan. 27 in Oskaloosa.
The latest conservation practice put in place on his farm is a long, high weir that catches that water. It contains a drainage tile that diverts the water underground to an established ditch nearby, which stretches on down to the Kansas River. The weir, or diversion terrace, was built by King’s Construction, Oskaloosa.
Below the weir are smaller diversion terraces and wide-channel waterways. With the smaller fields seeded and placed in the conservation reserve program, Amerine believes he has pretty much reduced any chance of erosion at all.
Amerine, 60, is the third generation in his family to farm the land and he is no stranger to the soil conservation district and the people there who provide the help and expertise needed to solve some of these problems. There’s a plaque that holds an honored place in the house with his father’s name on it for serving as a supervisor on the soil conservation board from 1951 to 1959.
Mike grew up with this example, knowing the importance of caring for the land. In a shed on the property there’s a small D4 Caterpillar his father, the late Carl Amerine, ordered prior to World War II, but because of the war could not take delivery until 1946. Behind the shed is a manually operated grader that the dozer used to pull that built most of the early terraces on the farm along with a pond.
Mike expressed his admiration for what his forebears accomplished, knowing they didn’t have the modern machinery and equipment to work with that farmers and contractors have today.
Some of the farm is broken into smaller fields, some encircled by timber. The native prairie has never been broken, but it’s protected because of its shallow soil that sits on a rock ledge.
The farm is located east of Perry and abuts the Hamm Landfill on its southeast corner.
Mike’s grandfather, Richard Amerine, was the first in the family to buy the original 380 acres in 1937. There have been 160 acres added to the farm since and Amerine farms other land on the share.
Richard Amerine was in the grain elevator business and had other land interests when he bought the Jefferson County land and chose to move there. The unique rock house and barn were built in 1905.
Carl Amerine took over the farm operation in 1948. He was working for the Kansas Power & Light Co. and helping farm at the time. In 1960 the farmland was leased out to a neighbor and in 1972 much of the land was leased to produce alfalfa for a nearby mill.
Because of the farmstead’s unique location, Mike tells the story about the 1951 flood when the Kaw bottom was a raging river. He said many of the neighbors who were living on lower ground moved themselves and their livestock to the Amerine farmstead where they all lived together and survived for two or three weeks until the neighbors could go home.
Mike graduated from Lawrence High School where the family had moved until he was out of school. He moved back to the farm in 1972 and took over the farm in 1980. To supplement his income, he spent 25 years employed by Quaker Oats. He now does construction work in the off-season. He had a cow-calf herd for awhile but dispersed it in 1995.
The bottom ground is Wabash or heavy clay soil. He uses no-till or minimum-till practices for his row crops. He’s also looking at cover crops that are being prescribed to increase organic matter and improve the soil, but has not applied that yet.
He has also worked with a forester to better manage the timber. The old walnut has been marketed, but much of the timber has been thinned to better produce what’s left.
The timber, CPR ground, and native prairie also serve as good habitat for wildlife on the farm. Always trying to stay up on the lastest, he said landowners are now being encouraged to plant pollinators to help attract butterflies and bees.
“I have a lot of people to thank,” he said. “I hear people complain and say government doesn’t work but I know better when it comes to the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency.”

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Posted by on Feb 9 2016. Filed under The Independent, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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