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A family affair

Five young boys growing up on a southern Iowa farm aren’t lacking for conservation-minded role models if they have aspirations to carry on the family’s farming tradition. Both their parents and grandparents are recipients of the Rathbun Lake Protector award, given annually by the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance. The grandparents, Dwaine and Twyla Evans, received the award in 2008, and the parents, Pat and Amy Evans, were honored in 2011.

Farming near the town of Derby, the Evans family is part of the nearly 500 landowners who’ve worked with the alliance’s Protect Rathbun Lake Project since it began in 2004. The project’s aim is to protect Rathbun Lake by implementing conservation practices in the lake’s 354,000-acre watershed, located in six southern Iowa counties of Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Monroe and Wayne.  

Key Points

Protecting farm for future generations is priority for this Iowa family.

Participating in watershed project helped them install conservation practices.

Terraces were built to stop water from washing down the hill.

Velvet Buckingham, environmental specialist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s division of soil conservation, coordinates the Protect Rathbun Lake Project and says the Evans families were selected to receive the award because of their commitment to improve and preserve the family farm, as well as their actions to protect Rathbun Lake. The large lake is the water source for Rathbun Regional Water Association and provides drinking water to 80,000 people.

Dwaine Evans was only about 14 years old when he rented his first land from an uncle in the Derby area. “About three years ago, that same farmland was passed down from my uncle to my son, Pat, and it is now a 100-year-old heritage farm,” Dwaine says.

Protecting farm a priority

“Caring for the land is important,” Dwaine adds. “I always wanted to pass my farm onto my kids and grandkids, and protect the land; leave it better than when we got it.” He says the 75% cost share available to priority landowners through the project helped them get quite a few of their conservation practices installed.

Farming is very much a family affair for the Evans who have farmed in Lucas County all their lives. Like his father, Pat Evans started farming at a young age when he rented his first land from a friend and neighbor for a 4-H crop production project. “I’ve been farming ever since,” he says.

The two families each own and rent their own cropland, but they run their cows together and share pasture as well as equipment. Together the Evans family maintains 400 head of Angus, raises about 400 calves and 250 pigs, and farrows 15 sows. Dwaine sells about 50 Angus bulls each year.

Buckingham says between the two operations the family has installed 16 separate conservation practices. “This includes nearly 13,000 feet of terraces, three grade stabilization structures, and two water and sediment basins,” she notes.

“We built the terraces to stop water from washing down the hill and taking the soil with it,” explains Pat. “In the last year or so, farmland has gotten so high priced, we want to try to keep as much of that land as possible and keep it from going to Rathbun Lake.” 

The Evans also seeded highly erodible land, installed grassed waterways, built more than 2,000 feet of fence and installed watering facilities in heavy use areas. “These soil-saving practices reduce sediment delivery to Rathbun Lake by 624 tons per year and 2,183 pounds of phosphorus per year,” says Buckingham.

That’s the equivalent of more than 31,000 5-gallon buckets of sediment each year that no longer enter Rathbun Lake.

The influence given by the families farming together is evidenced by the hearty affirmative head nods given by the five boys when asked if they want to farm someday. Dwaine says they plan to continue with the Protect Rathbun Lake Project as long as funds are available. “We have applications in right now for cost-sharing to install more conservation practices, and we’ll keep improving the land as long as we can,” says Dwaine.

Chester writes for the RLWA.

Evans Family.jpg

Conservation in mind: The Evans boys can learn about protecting Rathbun Lake from their grandparents, Dwaine and Twyla Evans (left), and parents, Amy and Pat Evans (right). The boys (from left) are Ethan, Levi, Blake, Logan and James.  

This article published in the May, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.