The Discovery Farms program was a big topic of interest at the recent Mid-South Farm & Gin Show. AgWired’s Lizzy Schultz spoke with Mike Daniels of the University of Arkansas Extension about the program.
Arkansas faces many water issues, Daniels explains, from decreasing ground water levels due to irrigation to nutrient runoff into the Gulf of Mexico. The Discovery Farms program was created to help farmers understand what conservation practices were being effective in solving these problems, and to help them fill a leadership role in implementing those solutions.
“Discovery Farms is where we go on real, working farms and we monitor the impact they are having on natural resource in terms of water use. How much water are they using on irrigation? How much of that runs off? What is the quality of that runoff? Is runoff from their fields carrying nutrients and sediment away that could impact off sight waters? We modeled this after a program we learned about in Wisconsin. Wisconsin started the original Discovery Farm program, and while our particular issues are different, the concept is the same. It is a way of empowering farms to address these solutions,” Daniels said.
And the results are positive. The program shows farmers are doing a good job, with losses at much less than originally anticipated. But Daniels notes with a little surprise, even with nutrient run off at about 5 percent, farmers are still working to do better. They’re motivated, he says, because these farmers want to hand this land down to their grandchildren.
Thanks to the Discovery Farms program those growers will be able to tell if the new conservation methods are working.
Hear the full interview with Mike Daniels, including his take on the Discovery Farms program and the EPA here: Interview with Mike Daniels, Discovery Farms