Spreading conservation

Iowa Learning Farms is helping Jim and Jody Kerns of Edgewood in northeast Iowa educate youth about conservation of natural resources. To make the greatest impact, future generations need to be reached, a view shared by Iowa Learning Farms and the Kerns.

“Conservation has always been a part of our life,” says Jody. It started out with a fascination for nature, and shortly after they got married, they bought land and practiced conservation techniques. Today their land features no-till farming, food plots, managed woodland, streambank riparian buffers and replanted native prairie. Also, they are part of the Conservation Reserve Program.

They’re active in conservation organizations, including Iowa Tree Farm Committee, State Soil Con-servation Committee, Northeast Iowa Forestry Advisory Committee and Iowa Woodland Donors. Jim and Jody also try to support their community and school system. They teamed up with the Edgewood-Colesburg Community School District to offer students more exposure to the outdoors and to show students how to practice conservation. The Kerns have been hosting workshops and field days on their land for more than 20 years.

The first program the students get to participate in is a second-grade field day, which has stations on plants, wildflowers, riverbottom sediments, prairie diversity, wildlife, tree identification and care of trees. This year, ILF has been invited to participate in the field day. ILF will be one of the stations, teaching students water quality and conservation.

Work with local schools

The Kerns also host an outdoor classroom event for fifth-grade students. The Kerns work closely with the teachers to base the content of the outdoor classroom with the learning objectives of the school. This field day focuses on managing woodlands. The Kerns donate a tree to every student for them to take home and raise themselves.

At the field day, students are taught how to plant and properly care for a tree. “We get lots of feedback about the trees we give out, the success of their growth and sometimes the failures,” says Jim.

The Kerns don’t just use their land to build conservation ethics with elementary students; they offer a course for high school students as well. The Kerns work with biology teacher Dave Millis to teach outdoor classes. Millis teaches a three-credit environmental science course on the Kerns’ property each fall. The high school students learn about the river, water quality, prairie diversity, wildlife, managing woodlands and monitoring the effects of flooding.

The Kerns, like ILF, are actively working toward building a “Culture of Conservation.” They are reaching out to the next generation, including their own six children, to teach about the impacts that humans have on nature and how to preserve the resources the world offers. “It’s rewarding and we enjoy doing it,” says Jody. “This gives us motivation to keep doing the work we do on the land.” They hope to pass their practice of conservation onto as many children as possible. Jim says, “We are building a legacy for our children, and with our children.”

For more information about ILF, visit www.extension.iastate.

Bockenstedt is an Iowa State University student working with the Iowa Learning Farms program.

OUTDOOR CLASSROOM: Jim and Jody Kerns of Edgewood host field trips for elementary and high school students on their farm to help youth learn about natural resource conservation.

This article published in the May, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.