Carl Kurtz lives “on the edge of the lobe” on the farm his father purchased in 1930. The land is rolling, carved by outwash as the last glacier receded. During the mid 1900’s, it was a typical mixed farm, with row crops, some livestock and a large garden. Over time, Kurtz and his wife, Linda, have converted 167 of 250 acres from annual row crops and pastureland to perennial prairie. They now manage for diversity, harvesting seed from their native species prairie in the fall and selling the mixed eco-type seed to a variety of customers. They also cash rent 83 acres in row crops.
Minerva Creek runs through their property and eventually flows into the Iowa River. The perennial grasses virtually eliminate run-off and facilitate infiltration. Four wetlands treat the tile water from surrounding cropland.
Kurtz has a degree in Fish and Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University, and he pays attention to how his land management affects the birds and mammals on his farm. “Living here, surrounded by prairie with the wildlife coming through, enhances our lives so much,” says Kurtz.
His interest in wildlife and the land also provides a base for his career in photography. He currently provides the Ames Tribune with a weekly nature photograph, delighting readers with a glimpse of the seasons. He is the author of two popular books, “A Practical Guide to Prairie Reconstruction” (University of Iowa Press, 2001) and “Iowa’s Wild Places” (Iowa State Press, 1996).
Kurtz was a long-time member of the Nature Conservancy board of directors, and his land will go into a trust with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. He is currently working with a young farmer to teach him the prairie seed business. He is also involved in the Anderson Lake project, helping to plant prairie grass buffers around it.
Kurtz believes in diversity in his life as well as on his land. Along with being a conservation farmer, a mentor, an author and a photographer, he also plays the mandolin and guitar.