The third 100-year flood in 10 years has hit the Driftless Region. It is sad to see pictures of the flooded towns along the Kickapoo, but the real heartbreaker is to consider how much topsoil has headed down river. This region has never been suitable for extensive row cropping, and now, with weather extremes, it is less so. Over the three decades I’ve lived in this area, I’ve seen contour strips removed from fields and the corn covers entire hillsides. Wake up, America! Your diet of grain-fed meat and high fructose corn syrup is consuming our precious resources.
This farm, all in sod except for Craig’s gardens, handles a lot of water in events like this. We have six raging rivers running down towards the pond. Except for flattened fences, we suffer little damage. The most damage–seemingly from the fastest flowing water–is from water that comes from the east. The farm to the east has conventional crops on the hilltop and overgrazed pasture adjacent to us.
The morning after the big flood day I woke up with one word in my mind as I shook off my sleep: floodgates. I wonder what the result would be if, everywhere on this farm that the flood’s rivers smash our fences, we took out the permanent fences and installed panels that could be opened during heavy thunderstorms. Would the water build up in the pond even faster and go over the dam with more force? I don’t know, but I think I’m going to talk to my friends at NRCS about it.
Speaking of NRCS, I am so grateful for the waterway/field road project they funded here last year. As you can see in the pictures, the road lost gravel and the brand new cattle lane fence suffered damage, but the clover sod handled the rush of water without gullying.
When we bought this place about 25 years ago, all the tillable was in corn and tobacco. As you look at the pictures, imagine what this place would look like if we hadn’t transformed it into a rotationally grazed livestock farm. Our conservation easement will maintain this.