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Farmer honored for protecting soil and water

Keith Hubbell is being honored this week with the River Friendly Farmer Award for his efforts to protect the water in both the East and West forks of the Whitewater River.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

With farms in watersheds of both the East and West forks of the Whitewater River, a local farmer is doing his best to keep those rivers clean.

Keith Hubbell will receive the River Friendly Farmer Award at the Indiana State Fair from the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, recognizing his good production management practices to help keep Indiana’s rivers, lakes and streams clean.

The Fayette County SWCD nominated Hubbell for the award.

Keith and Lois Hubbell farm about 1,200 acres from the Shelton’s Plat area to some land they own in Union County with the home farm on County Road 200-N. near the county line.

“Everything on the home farm probably goes to the East Fork but when I get close to the Waterloo School and that way, it goes to the West Fork. I have some right on the West Fork,” he said.

Much of the land he farms is rolling to hilly which is one reason for implementing the practices.

The farm has gone totally no-till since 2012 but some no-till has been done since 1983. Back in the beginning, it proved to be a hit and miss venture, he said. At that time, farmers did not have Round-Up Ready beans to help make no-till work.

“Back when dad and my grandfather farmed, it was a corn-wheat-hay rotation and everybody had cows and pigs and you didn’t worry about erosion because of that rotation,” he said. “Times changed and while we rotated until I quit dairying, and quit wheat in 2009, so I did more no-tilling.”

When he got away from his father and grandfather’s rotation and began more plowing, that’s when he could see more erosion. Potash and phosphorus fertilizers were cheap so it was used in abundance, he said. Now, the soil is tested every year and the results used to fertilize by soil type.

“I got into a company called Ag Spectrum and started getting into biologicals and trying to get more out of the soil rather than putting fertilizer on so I’ve cut my fertilizer way back,” he said.

He is trying cover crops but is still learning about managing their use as a ground cover in the fall winter and early spring to prevent erosion, improve soil tilth and aid soil health.

The efforts are paying off in another way as the water gets into the soil so the plant leaves do not curl as soon during hot, droughty conditions, Hubbell said.

In addition, he has installed several waterways in valleys in fields and several structures at the end of the waterways to reduce gully formation.

“I’m trying to get back to what my grandparents were doing, just doing it a different way,” he said.

The Hubbell family has been on the home farm since 1849 when his great-great-grandfather John Hubbell moved to the area.

His grandfather built the farmhouse they now live in 1910. His great-grandfather built the loghouse that is still on the farm.

The farm is Centennial and Sesqui-Centennial Hoosier Homestead Farm.

Their son Kurt and daughter Lisa are both involved in agribusiness, working at ADM and Cargill. Kurt is purchasing 120 acres in Waterloo Township. They are interested in keeping the farm in the family for their generation and the next, as Kurt and wife Dana have two children.

“That’s the whole point of what I’m doing, to keep the dirt on this farm for future generations to farm it,” Keith said. “They don’t make any more dirt.”