Fred Abels, and his wife Vicki, farm about 400 acres near Holland, Iowa. Fred acquired the farm from his uncle in the late 1970’s, after working for other farmers for a few years. He grows corn and soybeans, and has a cow/calf operation.
He uses a number of conservation practices including no-till, strip-till, CRP, grass waterways and rotational grazing. The cows are rotated on 55 acres of pasture and they also graze the last cutting of his 80-acre hay field. Fred protects the unnamed creek (locals call it Holland Creek) that runs through his property by maintaining riparian buffer strips and fencing it off to keep his cattle out. He recently installed a cattle panel rock structure though NRCS, and has planted quail/songbird habitat and windbreaks. As part CSP, Fred grows 50 acres of cover crops into soybean stubble.
A love of wildlife, especially pheasants and geese, made it easier for Fred to change his practices. Although he is not a hunter, Fred enjoys watching the wildlife, especially in the winter. He noticed that fall tillage really cut down the number of birds on his farm. “I grew up with the “Iowa Conservationist” magazine coming to our home every month,” says Abels. “My dad enjoyed the pheasants. Through the winter, we have around several dozen pheasants that call our place home and he would be proud of that.”
Fred a member of the Practical Farmers of Iowa and is a Grundy County Soil and Water Conservation District commissioner. When Fred is ready to retire—but not for a while—he intends to rent his land to a young conservation farmer.
Building a Culture of Conservation: "No-till planting is a win-win: less machinery cost, lower fuel and herbicide costs. Strip-till is a way to get N, P and K incorporated so it hopefully stays put and not washes away to the Gulf of Mexico."
Scenes from an ILF/PFI field day at Fred's farm in July 2009. Homemade strip-till equipment was shown at the field day.