Decades of conservation in Green Lake County

Green Lake County NRCS Service Center

GREEN LAKE COUNTY - Conservation has been a part of Richard Dukelow’s farm since the very beginning.

Duke can remember when he was 6-years-old “getting in the way” while his grandpa fixed stone walls with a stone boat and horses. These walls were at the edge of two gullies, dropping off the Markesan Prairie into Roy Creek and the Big Green Watershed.

The ravines looked similar to rock formations you may see today in Wisconsin Dells. These stone walls, fixed by his grandpa in 1937, held back 30-foot head cuts.  

Duke began his solo farming adventure in 1959 with a Case 900 tractor and 250 acres. He continued to be a conservation leader in the community, implementing ridge till practices in 1967, which progressed into running a 600 acre no-till farming system today.

Program successes

With assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) National Water Quality Incentive (NWQI) - Big Green Lake Watershed, Richard continues to maintain and improve his farming operation.

He installed grade stabilization embankment dams and grassed waterways in front of the old stone walls he watched his grandpa maintain.  

Looking into the future, Dukelow Farms plans to continue to adopt and implement new conservation enhancements through the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program. The program enrollment will add to the existing conservation practices already implemented as part of Richard’s corn, soybean and winter wheat no-till rotation.

“This year, I’m planning a clover and rye cover crop after the winter wheat, which will be terminated in the spring prior to planting corn. I needed to do some tillage a couple years ago, but hopefully that is the last time I will need to till. I’ve made some mistakes over the years, but I think I’ve also done a lot of things right,” said Richard, discussing his decisions regarding reduced tillage, his conservation legacy and the cooperation between him and his neighbors to help with custom operations, including harvest.

“You probably won’t meet too many farmers born in the 1930s, actively studying university research on cropping systems. Richard is a leader in adopting new conservation activities to improve soil health, productivity and profitability. NWQI assistance enabled the install of various conservation practices in the Big Green Lake Watershed over the last five years to improve water quality. Conservation minded farmers, like Richard, are an important reason why this program has been successful,” said Caleb Zahn, NRCS Green Lake County District Conservationist.

The Green Lake NRCS has also worked closely with their local conservation partners including the Green Lake Land Conservation Department and the Green Lake Sanitary District to help with design, installation and additional funding for specific practices.

Today, Dukelow Farms is better off because of Richard’s decades of conservation-minded choices.