Sunburst Dairy owned by Brian, Yogi and Cory and Katie Brown was one of the stops on the Water Matters Upper Tour hosted by UW Discovery Farms and Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) on June 26.
Preserving the quality, safety, and accessibility of Wisconsin’s water supply is a top priority for farmers, community members, and city and county administrators.
About 50 attendees saw and learned about innovative practices and heard about partnerships with the Farmers for the Upper Sugar River Farmer-Led Watershed Group, UW Discovery Farms, and PDPW that protect the water quality.
In the Upper Sugar River Watershed there are 170 square miles, which equals about 109,400 acres with 115 miles of streams.
Brian, Yogi and son Cory explained the conservation and cropping strategies for the 500-cow dairy. Brian serves as president of the Farmers for the Upper Sugar River Farmer-Led Watershed Group that organized 3.5 years ago and he said, “It’s farmers learning from farmers.”
Three takeaways include the practices that the family implements that shadow what the farmer-led group advocates, including:
- Planting cover crops to make sure that something is growing or covering the ground when soil is exposed.
- Planting cover crops after harvesting corn silage along stream banks or on ground where runoff is more likely to occur.
- No-till planting of corn and alfalfa to reduce soil loss.
- Using minimum tillage instead of conventional tillage.
A second takeaway during the tour, was when the attendees walked along the Sugar River and observed a stream bank restoration project that the Browns initiated about six years ago.
“Small steps turn into big steps,” said Brian as he described the project along the Sugar River and the no-till practices that the family is incorporating to preserve water quality for future generations.
The third takeway was the team that the family works with to reach their goals of preserving the quality, safety, and accessibility of Wisconsin’s water supply.
The family and the farmer-led group also work with Eric Birschbach, a crop consultant for Ag Site Crop Consulting LLC, Heidi Johnson, a crop and soils agent with UW Extension for Dane County, and Wade Moder, executive director of the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association.
Moder discussed his work and how the association’s staff manages invasive aquatic life and how they are working with farmers.
UW Discovery Farms and PDPW organized other tour stops including Verona Public Works and Wisconsin Brewing Company, Verona to discuss how they work together to ensure safe and accessible water for their community.
Marian Viney is a graphic designer with Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She is an active member of her community serving in a variety of roles on the school board, within her church and other organizations. Her and her husband live in Belleville with their three sons, Matthew, Michael and Benjamin.