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Heritage Farm Manager Joe Zimmerman oversees Master Gardeners installing the drip irrigation system. 

Caring for your land and conserving for the future are the core tenants of being a steward of the land. 

For 18 years, Washington State University Clark County Extension’s Small Acreage Program has taught land stewardship principles through their Living on the Land class series. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the class series will be offered fully online this year. This year’s course will bring local experts to each class to teach key stewardship principles to small acreage stewards as well as teachers from throughout the state as they share their advice on land stewardship practices such as soil rehabilitation, pasture management and more. 

The program will be broken down into eight main learning modules: inventorying resources, soil, water, wildfires, grass, animals, business opportunities and stewardship. Other topics include waste, grazing and weeds on the property. 

The first step to stewardship is understanding the property’s assets in the inventory class. Taking an inventory of resources and creating a map of the property helps with future goal planning and a property plan notes specific resources such as an orchard, barn or body of water and any problem areas such as a weedy field or standing water. As one plans out new goals for their land, such as expanding pasture, they can look back at their map and see how current resources support or hinder new goals.

In the soil class, participants will learn how soil is one of the most important resources of the land. If it is well cared for, it will support the growth of crops and help pastures soak up rain. 

“To know the health of the soil, a first step is to get a soil test,” WSU Extension’s Small Acreage Program Coordinator Terry Koper said in a news release. “A soil test will show how much fertilizer to apply so only the plants are fed and not nearby water bodies.” 

As for water, participants will learn how rivers, streams and lakes can be an amazing resource but also become muddy and algae-filled when overwhelmed with contaminated stormwater runoff and livestock traffic. 

“You can keep water bodies on your property healthy by planting trees, shrubs, grasses and sedges around water bodies to filter any pollutants from stormwater runoff,” Public Works Clean Water Specialist Eric Lambert said. “Add fences to block livestock from trampling stream beds and fouling water with their waste.”

Public Health O&M Specialist Sean Hawes mentioned how poorly managed septic systems can leach waste into waterways. 

“Getting regular inspections ensures a septic system is working properly, reducing the chance for costly septic system repairs or replacement. Animal waste also wreaks havoc on our rivers and streams (as) horses and cows produce 50 to 60 pounds of manure each day,” Koper said. “Compost the manure to create a resource you can use and be sure to cover your manure pile with a tarp during the rainy season to keep the manure from running off into our local water bodies.” 

Bad water isn’t the only problem with keeping pastures healthy. According to the Small Acreage Program, overgrazing is the easiest way to kill a pasture as plants need to rest. WSU Extension Specialist Gary Fredericks said stewards should follow the “3-inch rule” and take livestock out of pastures when the grass is below 3 inches. 

You can learn from each of these local experts and more first-hand as WSU Extension and Clark County Public Works Clean Water Program launch their 18th annual Living on the Land class series. 

“This class is a great opportunity to learn how to better manage your land. Not only will it help you become a better land steward, you will also learn how to effectively manage your problem areas such as muddy pastures and weeds,” Koper said. 

The 2020 online class runs weekly on Tuesdays from Sept. 22 to Dec. 8 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Advance registration is required. The cost is $35 per person or $50 per household/farm (up to two). To register and find more information on Living on the Land visit the WSU Extension’s website at go.wsu.edu/smallacreage or contact the Small Acreage Program Coordinator Terry Koper at teresa.koper@wsu.edu and (564) 397-5729. Courses are offered with Spanish language interpretation, and military veterans are eligible for scholarship opportunities through the Veterans Assistance Farm Grant.

 

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