Friday, June 24, 2011


A few years ago Green Girl enrolled some of her family's acreage in a CRP. Site surveys, soil samples and long discussions resulted in recommendations for what to plant. A couple years ago Green Girl complied--to the tune of 5 acres of prairie seed, 3 acres of non-native grass seed and 1,900 tree seedlings. (No, she did not plant a partridge in a pear tree, though The Twelve Days of Christmas plays through her mind every time she looks at those fields.)

This seemed like a no-fail proposition. Green Girl would improve the value of the acreage by planting trees and prairies and the government would share the cost burden. In fact, the government would pay Green Girl for sound environmental practices on the property--a common-sense use of tax dollars if she ever heard of one. (And felt entitled to because she knew they stood to make more money developing the property and turning into a landscape of subdivisions--1/2-1 acre lots planted with McMansions sporting attached 4-car garages and entertainment rooms.) The environment would win because hey! Biodiversity in plant species! Invasive weed control! Less soil erosion! Better management of the waterways because of buffer zones! Green space!

Everything got planted. Some things got replanted. And then replanted again.

There were issues with &$*#(@@@!!!^*% reed canary grass (a weed so invasive and evil that Green Girl has to pause and spit at the very thought of it).

There were issues with flooding.

And more flooding.

And still more flooding.

Last year Green Girl had to withdraw most of the enrolled acres from the program. All that remained was a 5-acre prairie plot that had almost established. (It takes 3 years to establish a prairie, 7 for it to reach its peak.)

Heavy snowfall and more heavy rains have created a shallow lake where the prairie has now officially FAILED. Last fall the CRP office held on to a slender thread of hope that if things dried out, the field would survive. The ground never dried out and now it's covered in weeds, not prairie plants.

It's only a matter of time before Green Girl gets that phone call from the CRP office, asking her to come in and sign off on withdrawing the final 5 acres.

Lessons learned: she should've planted rice paddies or cranberry bogs. Or started a salmon farm. There's no such thing as a free lunch. Or free government money (unless you're a multimillion dollar corporation selling oil, peddling insurance or contracting defense). There's still no money to be made in preserving the environment.

Disillusioned and disheartened, Green Girl will forge on, trying to figure out what to do with the CRaP fields at the back of their property. Perhaps there's a breed of goat that thrives when grazed on pastures of reed canary grass....


  1. How unfortunate for you, the government and the land. Sometimes Mother Nature just has her own plan and there's nothing that is going to change her mind. Goats may just be the answer...


  2. Goats sound fun. Yeah, fun is the word I'm looking for. I'm sorry it's been such a nightmare.

    The whole saving the environment thing overwhelms me -- at least you attempted it. It's still inspiring -- despite your experience.

  3. Get some nice long haired goats and then use their wool and make clothes for yourself - yeah, that's the ticket!

    Right. Sorry about the prairie. It sounded great....

  4. That is so sad. All that hard work, and nothing but weeds to show for it. I like the goat idea, though!

  5. can the Wisconsin FSA (farm services agency) give some ideas? Just a thought. I know it's just a couple acres, still, there could be something fun and profitable you could plant.
    * : )
    goats are a liability, not an asset, imho. *haha

  6. How disappointing it hasn't worked out as planned! Ugh!

  7. Cranberry bogs! That's the way to go. And as soon as you get the cranberries started, we'll have a drought. Guaranteed.

  8. Ahhh... is the water a new thing? Do you know what was growing there a hundred years ago?

    Swamps are fun!

    Oh God, NOT goats. I promise you.

    Good to catch up on all your news, you HAVE been busy!

  9. I sometimes use CRP acreage data in my work, and just always assumed it was pretty much a winning proposition for the land owner: take land that isn't high-yielding for traditional crops, and promise to set it aside for the benefit of the environment. What you describe sounds much more complicated than it is worth. I'm so sorry it didn't work out.

    In the best of all possible worlds, it would be easier to make money by preserving the environment than by selling oil.

  10. I had never heard of that program. However, my husband has been active in volunteering with the Natural Land Institute here in IL, at a wetlands area just south of our property. It has amazed me at how much manpower it has taken to return this farmland to it's natural wetland state. Definitely not an easy task. I'm sorry your land couldn't hold on to the things you planted.

  11. This reminds me of the later Little House on the Prairie books that talk about the Homestead Act. Free prairie land from the government to anyone willing to farm it and plant trees. If you kept the land farmed for a certain number of years, it was yours to keep. It hardly ever worked out and the farms failed. Ironic that they were trying to tame the prairie and now the government is trying to restore it.

  12. Maybe you'll find something else constructive to do with the land at some point--my money's on your tenacity.

  13. A cranberry bog sounds yummilicious and hopefully it would be a whole lot easier. We have some here in Oregon. And, if not, a goat would be great fun.

  14. Salmon-- Ha!

    So sorry-- I can only imagine how much work that must have been for you. The weather most definitely did not help matters at all. But I take my hat off to you for trying to help the planet.

    xo jj

  15. there is a wetlands program, or try the wildlife preservation people, they might have some program for you.
    out here in N.D. we have some of the same problems with our CRP land, under water, got 2more inches on sunday, poured again today. crops are under water, ......

  16. This is so sad. You tried to do such a cool thing and nature worked against you. Sorry to hear it. :(


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