• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
This privately owned property is in the middle of a transition from farm to native grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands. Building climate change considerations into this transformation will ensure this land is productive for future generations.

Project Area

project boundaries
This property has been maintained by the same family for five generations. It was homesteaded and farmed starting in 1883 with the philosophy that chemicals and agri-business were damaging to soil and all living beings. The fourth generation landowners fulfilled a long-time goal to return the land back to its original habitat, and the land was enrolled in CRP for the next 27 years, which served to transform the farm to native grassland with a small wetland. The land was also used by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) as a prime spot to observe ground-nesting birds, for banding bluebirds and bald eagles, identifying frogs and butterflies, and a living example of how grassland restoration works. With near-daily diligence, the loosestrife, teasel and other thistles were kept under control; the land lush with native grasses, forbs, sedges – and along the creek, the old red oaks still dropping copious amounts of acorns that grow like weeds.

The current generation landowner opted out of the CRP contract to explore a broader vision of a conservation-agriculture partnership with the land while transitioning from 27 years in CRP to regenerative practices and a nature preserve to include ecotourism. This project area totals 80 acres, and is comprised primarily of crop land, riparian corridor, tree plantations, and 2-acre wetland. The crop land represents about 75% of the land area and is used primarily for the production and harvest of annual or perennial field, forage, food, fiber, horticultural, orchard, vineyard, or energy crops.

Management Goals

Field at Earth Heart Farm

In the crop land areas, the major goals and objectives are to 1) generate revenue through the establishment of a cover crop, pollinator, and native plant nursery; while 2) maximizing soil health and soil carbon sequestration by managing native and perennial vegetation year round with minimal land disturbance and chemical application; and 3) reviving the local community through partnerships with local organizations, funded research, and creation of jobs through educational-art classes, native seed and plant sales, eco-tourism. In the Riparian areas, the objectives are to establish a nature preserve and a riparian birding trail and outdoor recreation opportunities, while removing invasive species and replanting with native species. The existing hardwood management zone will be expanded to 7 acres and supplementally planted with high value seed and nut trees that will be used as a revenue source. Objectives in the wetland area are to increase the wetland and buffer area, create walking trail and a wetland education area and establish a long-term wetland research site and wetland plant nursery.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

The farm is poorly drained and has a high water table already, showing wet areas in low-lying spots after storm events.
Increased variability in rainfall is expected to affect weed and invasive plant management.
Additionally, variable weather will make seed germination and success riskier.
Oaks will be affected by more waterlogged soil and rising water levels, with a possible change in stream stability with increased water.

Opportunities

No tillage and the decrease in invasive plants also provides an opportunity to hold more water with positive impact on the water quality.
Letting species grow that are best suited to the microconditions on site rather than forcing a certain crop.
Increasing the riparian zone and adding climate adapted species can help mitigate bank erosion and flooding impacts long into the future and create a succession of species to maintain stream bank stability.
Taking advantage of a native seed bed adapted to wetter soils like reeds, sedges, and swamp milkweed.
Oaks can be intact for many years and make good anchors to the riparian zone. Focusing on the understory as more climate adapted and adding in biodiversity will ensure longevity of the riparian corridor.
Starting to transition the understory early can help understand what species can work best and start to attract more wildlife to the site.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Area/Topic
Approach
Tactics
Cropland
Burn and mow up to 75 acres of grassland, moving toward rotational annual burning and/or mowing to reduce invasive plants, regenerate native plants, and reduce the need for chemical control (Agriculture Strategies and Approaches 1.1, 2.2, 5.1, 7.1)
Associated Agricultural Lands
Replace invasive understory plants along creek with native and climate-adapted plants, including oak plantings from existing seed source (Forest Strategies and Approaches 1.3, 2.2, 5.2, 9.1, 9.7)
Create a climate-resilient mixed species riparian zone ((Forest Strategies and Approaches 1.3, 2.2, 5.2, 9.1, 9.7)
Agricultural Tree Plantations
Reinstate 7-acre woodlot as hardwood and food forest with high-value seed and nut trees ((Forest Strategies and Approaches 1.3, 2.2, 5.2, 7.1, 9.1, 10.1)
Wetland
Increase wetland and buffer area to 20 acres and leave 5-acre wetland intact (Non-Forested Wetland Strategies and Approaches 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 4.1)
Establish a long-term wetland research site (Non-Forested Wetland Strategies and Approaches 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 4.1)
Create walking trails and wetland education area and enroll wetland into NRCS CREP or EQIP program (Non-Forested Wetland Strategies and Approaches 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 4.1)

Monitoring

Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Baseline inventories of bird, reptile, amphibian, and pollinator species that use the property for nesting, overwintering, roosting, summer foraging, or other life stage requirements.
Use community volunteers to conduct bird counts 3 times per year, annual reptile and amphibian counts, and annual pollinator counts to confirm a desired 10% increase in wildlife use.
Water quality: ensure zero or minimal N, P, and sediment discharge from the property to support 40% P reduction goal in Lake Erie.
Plant species inventory to limit invasives to 20%, while 80% of species are native and adapted to moisture and temperature trends.
Annual seedling and sapling inventory to ensure a 70-80% survival rate.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact
Patricia
.

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