I’m not one who likes to stay inside on the weekends, especially when the summer weather is so perfect. Fortunately, I live a few miles from Big Creek State Park in central Iowa, one of my favorite spots to unwind in the outdoors.

Earlier this summer, my daughter and I were both a little crabby after our afternoon nap, so I packed her in the car, along with a couple of sand buckets, and drove to Big Creek’s beach. My daughter is cautious (like her mama), so I figured she wouldn’t go near the water. But once she saw another little kid dipping his toes in the water, she sat down on the shoreline, letting the waves lap her legs – and soak her clothes – while she filled her buckets full of wet sand over and over and over again.

I stood next to her, letting my bare feet sink in the sand and watching all the families swimming, laughing and lounging on giant unicorn floaties in the water.

A few weeks ago at work, I got to tag along with the Iowa Minute crew for a feature on the new signs that highlight the conservation practices used by farmers along the High Trestle Trail in Polk County.

One of the locals, Kenny Lund, said some of the conservation practices on his family’s farm date back to the 1960s, when his father built the first terraces to prevent soil erosion. Lund also planted buffer strips to filter water runoff before it reaches the Big Creek Watershed, which is also a favorite summer destination for his family.

“We should blow our horn a little bit to show that we do care for the soil, we do care for the water,” said Lund, about the new conservation sign on his farm along the High Trestle Trail. Steve Lee, who also farms next to the trail, said he was recently invited to his granddaughter’s earth sciences class. He described to the young students the different water-quality practices, like no-till and contour farming, that he uses on the farm.

Lee said he cares about protecting water quality because he strives to be a good neighbor. Plus, he drinks the water from the Big Creek Watershed, as do his grandkids who live in nearby Ankeny. “It was instilled in me that we have to leave the farm in better condition than when we started,” Lee said.

Farmers enjoy spending time on the water - lounging, boating and fishing - just like my family does. That’s why farmers are taking on the challenge of improving water quality. However, they also know this challenge is bigger than just farmers. A truly effective approach also needs to take into account urban infrastructure, weather variability and industry. Everyone has a role to play in cleaning up our water quality. When we all work together, we can make big strides.

And I hope someday, my daughter will remember our time spent on the water, even if she got a little sand in her diaper.

To learn more about buffer strips, terraces and other conservation practices used by Iowa farmers, visit Conservation Counts.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau's Senior Features Writer.