Named the South Fork Agricultural Enterprise Area (AEA), this designated land area that crosses Mead and Reseburg townships preserves a mix of farmland, wooded acreage and inland lakeshore under a Farmland Preservation Program of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP).
“With preservation comes the thought of environmentalism and conservation,” says Amanda Kasparek, conservation agronomist for the Clark County Land Conservation Department. “My hope for the impact of this AEA is to get more conservation on the land. Ideally, when I drive past farms and their fields, I’m seeing good conservation. I’m not seeing erosion. I’m not seeing brown rivers and streams. I’m not hearing of manure runoff or fish kills.”
The South Fork AEA in Clark County represents one of the three newest additions to the DATCP Farmland Preservation Program in 2020, along with Grant County’s Castle Rock Township AEA and Sauk County’s Bear Creek AEA.
Michael Norks, who owns a 600-acre crop farm in Mead and Reseburg townships, had participated in older Farmland Preservation Programs before their expiration. He knocked on neighbors’ doors to make them aware of the newer AEA program and its farmland preservation incentives, including an income tax credit for agreeing to implement land conservation practices.
Both Norks and Kasparek spent time explaining the program to local Mennonite and Amish populations.
“Not only is it a good thing for the environment, it is a good thing for the community,” Norks says. “It helps keep money in our community through the tax benefit. We need all the help we can get out in the rural areas.”
In following the program’s land conservation guidelines, Norks implements a nutrient management plan on his farm and tills minimally, if at all. He also reconstructs waterways to prevent soil erosion and filter water that moves across his farm, a benefit to the Mead Lake watershed.
Kasparek says the 310-acre lake fights concerns with algae blooms, phosphorus levels and sedimentation. She works with area landowners to establish nutrient management plans, install waterways, close unused manure storage areas and fill abandoned wells, which are direct conduits to groundwater contamination.
“Hopefully with getting this AEA in place and having a nutrient management plan, we can reverse what is going on with Mead Lake over time,” Kasparek says.