Coon Valley, Wis. – The Coon Creek Community Watershed Council held its first ever Conservation Day at the Coon Valley Veterans Memorial Park last weekend. The event was designed to get the word out about the work the council has been doing, but also to draw people in and make them aware of why conservation work in the local watersheds affects everyone.
Nancy Wedwick is the President of the council and Tucker Gretebeck is the Vice-President. They spoke with us at the event and talked about where the idea for the event came from, and the work they have been doing.
“We just needed a way to get everybody involved,” said Gretebeck. “And there is no better way than smoking a hog, fishing poles for the kids, and bringing everybody in that has an interest. We have had UW-Madison here, they have spent a ton of time here in the last two years, three years. We’ve got Seed Savers, We’ve got companies like Neutral all the way from Oregon, and they all have things you can use whether you are farming or not. It’s all valuable information that makes this whole thing work together.”
The Coon Creek Watershed Council grew out of what is known in Wisconsin as a “Producer Led Watershed Group” that was formed about two years ago. There are currently about 43 of the groups across the state and there are three right here in Vernon County. The Tainter Creek Watershed Council has been operating since about 2016 and the Coon Creek group and the Bad Axe Watershed Stewards followed in the last couple of years. To get started the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection requires at least five farmers within the same watershed to join, and at least one collaborator: county land conservation, UW-Division of Extension, WI DNR, nonprofit organization. Once qualified the group is eligible for up to $40,000 in funding from the state.
The Coon Creek organization has grown even beyond a producer led group to include the wider community and last year the group incorporated as a non-profit. Wedwick said they are working with the other watershed groups and focusing on practices that have been part of the conservation tradition here for a long time.
“We have been meeting for our group for about a year and a half, ” Wedwick said. “And jointly with the other watershed councils over the course of, I would say the last year, and the whole idea is to create awareness and revive a lot of those good sound conservation practices that have slipped away perhaps in some cases. The impetus for this whole thing was all the flooding that has been experienced in this area over the last decade, particularly 2018.”
Wedwick and Gretebeck said they have also made it a goal to include the entire community and not just those involved in agriculture.
“A lot of this is just about awareness,” Gretebeck said.
And the information presented at the Conservation Day reflected that goal.
“In thinking about that for example we had a tree planting demonstration today,” said Wedwick. “Because it is something people can get out and do because those roots in the ground is what is going to help hold that water back.’
“We have the rainfall simulator” Gretebeck said. “Which takes from pasture ground that I maintain on our farm to corn that might be no tilled in but there are like four different sections and you can see the difference in the amount of water that can be soaked into the ground. So it’s all things we need to be aware of”
Wedwick and Gretebeck said something as simple as raising the height of your mower and letting your grass grow a bit taller can help hold more water and every little bit helps.