Flood Essays Across The Current

Flood Essays Across The Current-15
Tainter Creek now has a farmer-led watershed council organized around preserving water quality, and a growing number of such groups are forming across Wisconsin.

Tainter Creek now has a farmer-led watershed council organized around preserving water quality, and a growing number of such groups are forming across Wisconsin.In the Dust Bowl Era, Coon Valley residents rose to the occasion to find solutions to the climate crisis of their time.Ofte and Driftless farmers like him are already at work on this.

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With support from consumers, policy-makers, and each other, farmers can better manage their soils to hold on to more carbon and, subsequently, hold more water.Twelve thousand years of indigenous land use maintained this pattern. As the world became more populated, and agriculture became more intensive, farmers came to the Driftless in search of fertile soil.It took only a few generations of woodland cutting, hard farming, and overgrazing before the blanket of soil, sod, and forest had been worn threadbare.By the 1920s, landslides and floods were swallowing farm fields and houses alike; whole Driftless communities teetered on the edge of extinction. They banded together with local, state, and federal representatives, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, for the first large-scale watershed demonstration of the newly formed Soil Erosion Service (today the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service).The farmers adopted new methods of managing their land—contour rows, crop rotations, grain crops interspersed with perennial pasture, farm ponds, riparian buffers, restored hillside woodlands—to retain their soil and improve its capacity to infiltrate, which helped to prevent erosion and restore the health of local waterways.Now, the focus will shift to recovery and rehabilitation.But, before the state can start re-building infrastructure and communities, it will need to tackle one of the biggest problems that arises after a disaster of this magnitude – the amount of flood waste produced.In August of 2018, I visited Rod Ofte, who farms with his family just outside of town, to hold a workshop that attracted farmers from all over the Midwest who wanted to learn about his innovative methods of holding on to soil.Ofte, like his Coon Valley forebears, knows that healthy soil can buffer against floods.Not only did these changes help save their farmland and their town, but Coon Creek became one of many Driftless streams that went from being effectively dead during the Dust Bowl years to a world-class trout stream today.People still look to Coon Valley farmers as leaders in conservation.


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