Bridging the gap: Upcoming soil health workshop aims to bridge urban-rural divide

Robert Maharry

Since local farmer Fred Abels, retired Waterloo schoolteacher and Grundy County landowner Clark Porter, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) board members and employees at the Grundy Center Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office launched a collaborative effort to address water quality in the area, it’s been a gradual march toward progress. And now that more farmers are coming onboard, they’re hoping to engage city dwellers on practices that can reduce runoff and pollution as well.
Next Wednesday morning during the Grundy County Fair, the groups will host a soil health and water quality workshop from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. featuring five guest speakers and focusing on all aspects of the issue, from farming techniques to urban conservation.
“We need to engage all the people in the watershed, or as many as you can, and that includes the urban people,” Abels said. “We’ve gotten farmers and the chemical and fertilizer people, but we don’t have many urban people.”
Key topics will include landowner-tenant collaboration, relay cropping, edge-of-field, prairie strips, urban conservation and soil health. As Abels noted, he frequently hears from landowners who want their tenants to use more conservation practices, but changing the mindset can be difficult initially. 
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