Down on the Farm

By Megan DeLeeuw
Washtenaw County farmers, farmland owners, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD),  Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Congressional candidate, Gretchen Driskell all joined the Washtenaw County Conservation District (WCCD) on a tour of MAEAP-verified (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program) farms last night on Tuesday, August 28th 2018, from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 
The tour began at 5:30 p.m. at Selter Farms (9090 Bemis Rd, Ypsilanti, MI 48197), continued onto Rochowiak Farms (10922 Stony Creek Rd., Milan, MI 48160), and ended at Zilke Vegetable Farm (12491 Carpenter Rd, Milan, MI 48160). Dinner was provided by the WCCD free of cost, catered by the new Zilke Farm Kitchen. Each of the farms on the tour were unique in terms of business model and crops grown but have all made a commitment to balancing environmental stewardship and production.
 Phil Selter of Selter Farms was the first stop on the tour.  Phil farms in both Wayne and Washtenaw counties growing corn, soybeans, wheat and hay and was awarded Conservation Farmer of the Year in 2016.  Selter Farms is verified in Cropping, Livestock and is very close to getting its third verification in Farmstead.
Frank Rochowiak farms 200 acres growing corn soybeans and wheat.  Frank is an advocate for no-till and uses cover crops in his rotation.  The farm was re-verified in Cropping and Farmstead in August 2017, helping Frank become the 2017 Conservation Farmer of the Year. Frank credits his use of cover cropping and no-till for increased crop yields.
The tour concluded at Zilke Vegetable Farm in Milan. The Zilkes specialize in variety of vegetables and are verified in the Cropping and Farmstead Systems. Tom Zilke highlighted their use of cover crops, water conservation, and soil testing as part of their farm plan. MAEAP has also served as a marketing tool for the Zilkes’ at farmer’s markets and other venues.
MAEAP is a grant funded program through MDARD, and administered by the WCCD in Washtenaw County. MAEAP is an innovative, proactive, and voluntary program that helps farms of all sizes and all commodities voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks. 
 It helps farmers evaluate their entire operation and truly make sustainablemanagement decisions balancing society’s needs, the environment, and economics.

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