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Collaboration of Partners and USDA Grant Bring Changes to The Nature Conservancy’s Little Creek Farm

Promoting sustainable grazing practices in the Grand River Grasslands

  • Kristy Stoyer
    Director of Communications
    The Nature Conservancy
    Email: kstoyer@tnc.org

The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Little Creek Farm in Harrison County, Missouri is being transformed thanks to a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The 220-acre sustainable grazing demonstration farm, located adjacent to TNC’s flagship Dunn Ranch Prairie, has been undergoing infrastructure updates to install 12 rotational grazing pastures, or paddocks, that will allow cattle to be moved between the paddocks throughout the 2021 grazing season.

Recently installed exclusion fencing will keep cattle out of ponds and creeks, which help maintain stable streambanks, increases water quality and the health of the cattle. Nine alternative watering sources have been installed, which will now supply water to the paddocks.

“The CIG funding has been a catalyst for a lot of projects taking place at Little Creek Farm now, and those we are planning for in the future,” says Kent Wamsley, The Nature Conservancy’s grasslands and sustainable agriculture strategy manager in Missouri.

TNC’s goal with Little Creek Farm is to provide a real working land example of how ranching can be done to benefit the producer as well as their cattle, and nature. “Everything from birds, soil health, and water quality, to the producer’s bottom line, will benefit from the practices we are demonstrating,” says Wamsley.

Two of the farm’s paddocks – totaling about 30 acres – have recently been seeded with warm-season grasses, with a plan to eventually convert over 30% of the farm to native grasses. “Having a good diversity of warm and cool-season grasses will not only extend grazing periods, but it’s beneficial to wildlife as well,” says Wamsley. Native seeds collected from Dunn Ranch Prairie have also been used on key areas along the property’s creeks to establish buffer and pollinator areas.

Partnerships have also played a key role in the development of the property. “We’ve worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to install permanent fencing around the woodlots and perimeter of the property and have partnered with MFA, Inc on soil sampling,” Wamsley says. Soil sampling helps landowners evaluate the health of the soil and determine what nutrients are needed to maximize growth. Applying the right type of nutrients at the right time and at the right quantity will also help reduce runoff and keep the local rivers and streams healthy.

Additionally, TNC has partnered with the Missouri Department of Conservation to install two stream crossings that will allow controlled access for cattle over the creeks to the new paddock locations, and Wamsley said a partnership with the Institute of Botanical Training will provide a vegetation analysis to help develop a sustainable grazing management plan for the site.

“We hope to be able to host a farm tour at Little Creek Farm this fall and invite any interested landowners and ranchers onsite to see what we are doing, ask questions and give us feedback,” says Wamsley. “We also want to provide the landowners with the connections and partnerships that will allow for cost-share and other funding opportunities for them to incorporate some of these practices on their own land.”

Anyone interested in learning more can visit nature.org/moag to watch videos from the 2020 virtual farm tour, or reach out to Kent directly at kent.wamsley@tnc.org or 660-867-3866.

About Dunn Ranch Prairie:

Dunn Ranch Prairie, located in Hatfield, MO is a 3,258-acre tallgrass prairie and is a research hub for scientists from a variety of fields, offering rare opportunities to study topics such as pollinator health, soil quality, and bison movements. These findings, along with the knowledge gained from in-depth analyses of restoration activities, are freely shared so they can be applied to grassland restorations around the globe.

Dunn Ranch Prairie boasts breathtaking views of expansive grasslands, a thriving American bison herd, hundreds of vibrant wildflower species, and more than 100 species of migratory and nesting birds. It is home to one of the last populations of the state-endangered greater prairie-chicken and the federally endangered Topeka shiner, which was reintroduced to Dunn Ranch Prairie headwater streams in the fall of 2013. Both require a healthy and diverse prairie ecosystem to survive, reproduce, and thrive.

For more information, visit www.nature.org/DunnRanchPrairie

About Little Creek Farm:

The Nature Conservancy purchased Little Creek Farm in 2017 and have since established the farm as their first sustainable grazing demonstration site in Missouri. The 220-acre farm is located adjacent to TNC’s Dunn Ranch Prairie in Hatfield, MO.

Working with partners and a local rancher, TNC is testing sustainable grazing practices at Little Creek Farm that increase the health of the soil, water and habitat while also providing health benefits to the cattle and economic benefits to the rancher.

For more information, visit www.nature.org/MoAg

About The Nature Conservancy in Missouri:

Together with our members and conservation partners, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 150,000 acres of critical Missouri lands since 1956. To learn more visit  www.nature.org/Missouri.

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This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number NR196424XXXXG015. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.