PAOLA — Merle Kaiser grew up learning to preserve every bit of soil possible on a farm that has been in the Kaiser family for more than a century just southeast of Paola.
“I grew up around here all my life, and I started farming it on my own in 1976,” Kaiser said. “My great-grandpa bought it in 1907.”
Kaiser’s efforts to promote soil health are being recognized this year by the Miami County Conservation District as a winner of its 2021 soil health award.
Through the years, the Kaiser family has grown crops such as corn, soybeans, silage and grass hay on the land.
Merle has been part of the Kansas Jaycees, Miami County Fair Board, Miami County Extension Council Executive Board, Miami County Conservation District Board and the Kansas Farm Management Association. He has also been a chairman for the USDA Farm Service Agency in the Miami and Johnson county areas, according to Republic archives.
The Kaiser farm includes a terrace system that has been used through the decades as one soil conservation tool.
“I learned how to care for (the terraces) over the years and keep them operating properly to conserve soil,” Kaiser said. “From there, I went on to no-till everything and now I’m doing cover crops.”
Kaiser has about 200 hundred acres in the program.
“The terraces, that was the first part I put in the cover crop,” Kaiser said. “It’s mostly rye grass and then some broad leaf mixed in with it, like radish and turnips.”
Kaiser said he does not take soil conservation for granted.
“It takes constant vigilance to keep it operating properly,” he said. “You’ve got to stay on it year by year to keep it working.”