December 04, 2023

Farmers’ conservation work focus of new documentary

Film delves into work to protect natural resources

WALNUT, Ill. — Illinois Farm Bureau’s first documentary, “Sustaining Our Future: A Farm Family Story,” shares farmers’ work to protect natural resources through the story of three generations of a Bureau County farm family.

An excerpt of the film debuted for Farm Bureau members attending the IFB Annual Meeting in Chicago.

The crux of the film is Walnut farmer Michael Ganschow and his conservation work to continue a legacy started by his grandfather, Dean Ganschow, and continued by his late father, James Ganschow.

The Ganschows share the challenges they face to be innovative and remain economically viable while protecting soil and improving water quality.

“Oftentimes, we have such a large set of the population with a gap between perception and reality. It’s important for us to open the doors to our tractors and let people see what the reality is,” Michael Ganschow said.

The younger Ganschow noted his grandfather saw a soil erosion problem and took a chance by trying something different on the land. It’s a tradition he continues.

“That’s the way our operation is and how our family thinks,” he said. “My dad was the facilitator. He was able to say, ‘Michael, you take it.’”

In the film, another conservation farmer, Colby Hunt, McDonough County Farm Bureau president, shares his family history of stewardship and explains why he recently installed a woodchip bioreactor to reduce nutrient runoff.

The film “shows how personally farmers take care of the land. That it’s more than a job. It’s a legacy,” Hunt said.

In Knox County, the Farm Bureau Young Leaders Committee tackles a project to have cover crop demonstrations seeded in every township and succeeded in 18 of the 20.

Knox County Farm Bureau Executive Director Hailey Hennenfent discusses the importance of young farmers implementing new conservation practices on their family farms and how IFB’s Nutrient Stewardship Grant Program helps spark projects like those.

“Ever since I’ve been in Knox County, I’ve seen the members and the farmers trying steps to protect their land. This (project) was a chance for young farmers to take the next step,” Hennenfent said.

Lauren Lurkins, IFB director of environmental policy, describes IFB’s role in supporting farmers’ conservation endeavors while ensuring incentives provide support.

Lurkins also covers how IFB and farmers work with related national and state strategies, especially the statewide Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy and its goal to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus levels in rivers, lakes and streams.

The 60-minute film includes scientific perspectives from two University of Illinois agricultural researchers who have collaborated with farmers for in-field research projects.

Andrew Margenot, assistant professor in crop sciences, and Kaiyu Guan, associate professor in ecohydrology and remote sensing, discuss their work with farmers and search to find applicable solutions through research.

“It is a privilege to talk to farmers with all their experience and knowledge,” Guan said. “We try to use our research to make it relevant on the ground. Farm Bureau builds this connection with researchers, farmers and the land. I see this as the new generation of research.”

With a message for the public and policy makers, “Sustaining Our Future” also shares how farmers strive to be good environmental stewards and protect natural resources for future generations.

The documentary is available for viewing on the IL Farm Bureau YouTube channel.

This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association.