Rick Juchems farms in northeast Butler County and northwest Bremer County producing corn and soybeans with cover crops. He also finishes hogs. A long-time activist for conservation, Rick has served as president of Conservation Districts of Iowa and has been involved with the organization for some time. He also served as chair of the Butler Soil and Water Conservation District, chair of Cedar Valley Conservation and Development (RC&D), vice-chair for the Iowa League Resource Conservation and Development, and a member of Iowa Soybean Association. He is also the Iowa farmer representative to the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) North Central Administrative Council, which administers this USDA regional program.
Rick uses many conservation practices on his land including grass waterways, buffers along creeks, terraces, CDP windbreaks, a wetland, and no-tillage. He is participating in the ILF/PFI cover crop working group as well.
Building a Culture of Conservation: “I hope to leave the land that we farm in better shape than when we started. We are only here for a short time and the land will have to feed the world for generations to come.”
Farmers must be prepared for weather fluctuations from drought to flood. Rick's farm suffered from the 2008 flood with water carving great gullies in his sloping fields.
The Juchems family was one of the 67 familes to receive the first annual Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award.
The award was presented by Gov. Branstad at the 2012 Iowa State Fair.
Rick's daughter, Liz, worked as an undergraduate student with ILF during her entire time at Iowa State University. She is now the events cooridinator for the Iowa Learning Farms. Read her column that ran in the September 2011 issue of Wallaces Farmer:
Time well spent with Iowa Learning Farms
By Carol Brown and Elizabeth Juchems
Education is an essential word with the Iowa Learning Farms program. It’s the basis of what ILF is all about, partnering with farmers all over Iowa, helping them tell their conservation success stories to their neighbors and community. We also work with kids of all ages—the next generation of landowners—showing them that what they do to the land affects everyone. We also work with Iowa State University (ISU) students, who collect and record data from research fields across the state and travel with the Conservation Station to county fairs and festivals. The Conservation Station is a mobile learning center that offers lessons to all on the importance of good quality water and soil.
Liz Juchems has been with ILF since she was a freshman at ISU. She graduated in May and is moving on to pursue a master’s degree. Her father, Rick, is one of the ILF farmer partners. The staff at ILF has helped Liz grow from a “high schooler” to a remarkable young adult. She excelled at every task she was given, contributed to the advancement of the ILF program and got to see the state of Iowa from a new perspective attending a multitude of county fairs, festivals and field days with the Conservation Station.
She reflects on her time spent at Iowa State and with Iowa Learning Farms…
“It seemed fitting that the place where I worked my last Conservation Station event of my college career would be at the Bremer County Fair in Waverly, Iowa. I grew up just across the county line in Butler County on our family farm, but exhibited 4-H and FFA projects for almost 10 years at the Bremer County Fair. My involvement in 4-H, FFA and the fair helped develop my passion for agriculture and planted in my mind the importance of sound farm management and conservation choices.
It was an easy decision to continue my education at Iowa State University and pursue an agricultural degree. Like many college students, I changed my major, but added another and picked up a minor while figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up. An opportunity that helped me develop as a student and person was landing the on-campus job with a great professor and the Iowa Learning Farms team.
It was January of 2008, when my father introduced me to Matt Helmers at an Iowa Learning Farms meeting held on campus. It was chance for me to even be there—Dad had brought my snow boots from home and I stopped by the meeting to pick them up. After a brief conversation, Dad encouraged me to apply to be an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Helmers and his team. I hurried back to my dorm and made sure my résumé was updated and sent it off. So began my nearly four-year experience with Dr. Helmers, Dr. Jacqueline Comito and Iowa Learning Farms team.
Since that time I have had many different opportunities to learn more about soil, water and conservation, whether it was collecting raw data from the field research sites or taking classes from great professors. The Iowa Learning Farms and the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department at Iowa State provided me with many great experiences.
Iowa Learning Farms staff encouraged me to work on individual projects, including a scientific poster entry, as well as working alongside an outstanding team. For three summers I traveled hundreds of thousands of miles with the original rainfall simulator trailer and also the Conservation Station, speaking to audiences of all ages about soil and water conservation. Some of my favorite summer memories were made attending various county fairs and field days across the state.
As I prepare to continue my education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, pursuing a graduate degree in agricultural economics, I look back fondly at my experiences at Iowa State and with the Iowa Learning Farms. I encourage any Iowa State student, or if you know of one, interested in agriculture and conservation to apply for a summer internship experience with the Iowa Learning Farms. It is a great opportunity to develop strong communication and teamwork skills, while meeting and networking with people all across the state. My family connection helped me land the job and my experiences with the Iowa Learning Farms staff helped me pursue my passion and continue my education.
Look for the Iowa Learning Farms summer intern application to be posted on the Iowa State student job board in early January. It’s a great opportunity that should not be missed!”
Elizabeth Juchems is a May 2011 graduate of Iowa State University where she majored in agricultural business and economics.