Water impacts agriculture on the most fundamental level: livestock and crops need clean water to grow! All people depend on farm food and farm food depends on clean water. Reducing the impact of agriculture on water not only improves the quality, but also saves farmers time and money. There are many simple changes that can be made to daily agricultural practices that help to protect local water quality and make farming more sustainable.
Tips for Farmers:
- Install Downspouts and Gutters Around the Barnyard - Any barn or other building on the property should have downspouts and gutters installed around it. These are both mechanisms used to control stormwater as it flows off of buildings and hard surfaces. With the help of a downspouts and gutters, water can be diverted away from the muddy barnyard toward a grassy or planted area. This way, the water doesn’t pick up the mud and manure as it travels into local streams.
- Store Your Manure - Depending on how it is handled, manure can help or harm local streams. Manure can be used as a natural fertilizer, but it can also create pollution. One way to properly handle manure is to install a manure storage tank or shelter. These containers help to prevent the manure from being washed away by rainwater while also making it easy to collect and reuse manure for crops. Even if you don’t grow crops, collected manure could be sold to other farmers!
- Be Smart with Your Fertilizer - A Nutrient Management Plan finds the balance between fertilizer and pollution by determining the perfect amount of manure or fertilizer to apply to crops. This allows plants to enjoy the benefits of the nutrients while preventing extra nutrients from running off into local water. Consider simply using less fertilizer, particularly if you notice a lot of it running off. Always look at the weather before fertilizing and avoid fertilizing if it’s going to rain. Any fertilizer that gets washed away is wasted money!
- Protect Your Stream - A farm with a stream running through it is a lucky one: that soil tends to be very fertile. However, there is a responsibility to that stream to protect it. There are many ways to do this, including plant trees or “buffers” and cattle crossings. A strong and healthy bank is an important component to maintaining a healthy stream. Planted stream banks hold the soil to prevent erosion while also capturing some of the pollution before entering the water.
- Contact Your Local Conservation District - Conservation districts are organizations that work to protect resources and the natural environment. Each county within the Schuylkill Watershed has its own conservation district and all of them have resources available for farmers who want to reduce their impact on the environment. If you are interested in any of these or other practices, please reach out! See the “Resources” section below for more information
Resources for Farmers
Farmers' Guide to Healthy Communities
Berks County Conservation District
Chester County Conservation District
Lehigh County Conservation District
Montgomery County Conservation District
Schuylkill County Conservation District
Natural Resources Conservation Service - PA