Conservation lessons learned early in life
Ron Ernzen sells real estate by day but is a farmer at heart.
He grows wheat and soybeans, rotating crops yearly, on land in Leavenworth and Atchison counties.
As with many farmers, Ernzen learned the trade from his father, Felix, and among the early lessons was soil conservation.
"My dad put in terraces in the early '30s," Ernzen said last week from his home northwest of Leavenworth. He noted his father's terraces were some of the first ever constructed in Atchison County. "When I bought the property, it was the thing to do."
Those lessons have paid off. The Leavenworth County Conservation District is recognizing Ernzen and his wife, Barbara, this year for their soil conservation efforts.
Ron Ernzen began farming on his own in 1956, after his father's death. Ron and Barbara, who were married in 1967, bought their first farm in 1974 and now own 500 acres.
Through the years, they have sown all of the steep and marginal soils on their land to grass. On their cropland, they have constructed terraces that are drained either by grass waterways or drain tiles.
He said soil conservation efforts needed constant attention - repairs, rebuilding, etc. - but the end justifies the means.
"You have to do it to prevent erosion," he said.
The Ernzens are parents of two adult sons, Jeff and Greg. When he's not tending his fields, Ron is owner and broker with Re/Max Crossroads Realty. Barbara is a retired schoolteacher.