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Van Patten Farms hosts conservation field day

LITCHFIELD, MI -- A farm in Litchfield, MI, was the location of the latest Field Day sponsored by the Branch County Conservation District and the focus of this one was conservation and wildlife habitats.

Van Patten Farms hosted the morning event on a Saturday in late August and, in spite of the clouds and threat of storms, drew 25 participants to learn more about the conservation practices being used on the 90 acres. The attendees were transported through the fields by hay wagons, giving them an opportunity to examine the surroundings.

The first stop was at a restored wildlife pond. Meredith Bryant, a Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Michigan Private Lands Office, shared information about the process they and the owner went through to get to the point of a functioning practice.

“We work with the owners on a 10 year plan,” Bryant said. “The objectives may change through that time but we are available to assist the owners at any time.”

The discussion then went to the variety of visitors have been seen at the pond. Butterflies, bees, turtles and mallard ducks have been to the pond as well as the wild turkeys that were spotted when the caravan stopped.

As the tour continued, the attendees were able to see conservation practices being used in an old orchard where the trees were producing for the wildlife and cisterns were created to provide sources of water. At the next stop, another pond was explored with a great deal of emphasis on the wildlife grassland habitats. Tyler Tankersley of the Conservation District shared information on the plans for the former pasture area.

Trees played a big part in the creation of the property with woodlots that had been developed independently. Pete Klink walked through the woods and asked questions of the participants encouraging an interactive discussion. While there, though, the expected storms caught the attendees and forced a quick exit.

During a slightly damp lunch, Marcus Reynolds presented his talk on cover crops referring back to what the participants saw on the tour. One field was planted with clover and radishes, varying them from row to row, encouraging growth above ground as well as below.

The day was sponsored by the Branch County Conservation District, Van Patten Farms, U.S> Fish and Wildlife, Progressive Forest Management, Wells Equipment, The Andersons of Litchfield, UISDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service, MDNR, MDNR FBB & Hunting Access Programs, Pheasants Forever, MUCC, MAEAP, and MDARD.