February 06, 2020
“We are doing our part” as caretakers of the soil
To a farmer, few things are more precious than their land. It is their life’s work and for many, like Gerard Pynenburg, it is like a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation.
“As farmers and caretakers of the soil, we try to do anything we can to limit our impacts on the environment to make our farm more viable and usable for generations to come,” says the father of two young boys.
And as the current landowner, Pynenburg believes he needs to return the soil back or better than when he received it.
“You can never get dirt back, so you do everything you can to keep it,” says Pynenburg.
Since 1979, his family has undertaken multiple projects to preserve the precious soil on their hilly acreage adjacent to a creek feeding into the Nith River along Blenheim Road in Princeton. Although they already use no-till practices on their soy and wheat crops, the ski hill-like fields were still prone to erosion.
Over the last eight years, across three properties, 10 berms, or erosion control structures, have been built to prevent washouts and ultimately keep the dirt on their land. The grassy islands slow the flow of water and trap the nutrient-rich soil before it’s washed away downhill and into the creek. Last spring, Pynenburg says the berm prevented truckloads of dirt – about two feet of topsoil – from going into the creek and its tributaries.
“We’re in this world together, so it’s about finding some harmony here with our environment and this is one way I can help a fish,” says Pynenburg, adding the sediment would often turn the creek murky. “No kid would want to play in that.”
His investment also restored former gullies into productive land he can now get his equipment through in one pass, requiring less fertilizer and pesticide use. He also plants cover crops, like oats and red clover, after wheat harvest to further increase infiltration and reduce surface runoff.
Pynenburg is thankful for the support of the Ontario Soil and Crop Association and Grand River Conservation Authority for sharing the cost of these projects to protect his family’s farm.
“I am doing the best I can do personally and locally to ensure the sustainability and profitability of our farmland for a long time.”