What is in this article?:
- Dust Bowl forced conservation efforts on U.S. farmers
- Worst drought in U.S. history
- Shelterbelts, terraces
• Eugene Littlefield is referring to the giant black clouds of soil that would blot out the sun and swallow the countryside.
• Littlefield says no matter how hard you tried to protect your equipment or vehicles, the fine sand would penetrate the carburetors and wind up in fuel lines, rendering equipment inoperable until it could be repaired.
• “They taught us about strip-till farming and the equipment we needed to have to farm in better ways. I really feel like the Graham-Hoeme chisel plow saved this country from blowing completely away.” — Eugene Littlefield
ROAD IS COVERED with sand and car is stalled out from dust storm that passed through. Tumbleweeds are piled up against the fences.
“We planted rows of trees, a shelterbelt, to act as a windbreak for our fields. We started terracing our fields to hold the water better. It made a big difference.”
The land care lessons his family and others received in the 1930s paid off in the 1950s when another historic drought had America’s farmland in its grip.
“The SCS helped us know how to take care of our land, even in hard times,” Littlefield says. “They taught us about strip-till farming and the equipment we needed to have to farm in better ways. I really feel like the Graham-Hoeme chisel plow saved this country from blowing completely away.”
The plow featured reversible chisel points that were used for erosion control and primary tillage. Special "low-crown" 16-inch-wide sweeps were developed for shallow weed control before planting.
The sweeps left about three-quarters of the stubble covering the soil surface, reducing the soil dryness and preventing wind erosion. This was one of the first tools available to perform "stubble-mulch" throughout the Great Plains.
Littlefield still owns farm land in Swisher County.
As an impressionable young child, experiencing first-hand the largest man-made ecological disaster our nation has ever seen made a lasting impression on Littlefield. He wants to do everything he can to save the soil on his land. He enrolled his farm land, most of it with highly erodible soil, in the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
Participating as a SWCD cooperator, he worked with the NRCS to develop a conservation plan and proper management for his CRP.
When his CRP contract expired in 2011, Littlefield immediately enrolled it in the USDA’s State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) program, administered by FSA, with NRCS providing technical assistance and conservation planning advice. In the SAFE program, Littlefield relies on NRCS to help him remove the existing introduced bluestem grass to prepare the acres for planting native plants to improve wildlife habitat for such threatened and endangered candidate species as the Lesser Prairie-Chicken.
“Seeing what I saw growing up as a boy on our farm, I have witnessed the positive effects over 70 years of conservation efforts have had on our land,” Littlefield says.
“I am now proud to say I am a landowner who is making a difference for the environment, and in the process, I hope to be able to help the prairie chicken populations.”
Bennett, known as the Father of Conservation, perhaps said it best: “Farmers have only temporary control over their land. It can be theirs for a lifetime and no longer. The public's interest, however, goes on and on, endlessly, if nations are to endure....”