It’s officially fall. This means pumpkin-flavored everything in the stores, cooler temperatures, and the thought of winter coming soon. For me and my husband, this also means extra time spent outside taking care of our lawn.  We are repairing dead patches in our backyard and trying to determine the next step in our backyard renovation project, while making sure we take care of the environment.

As we planned improvements to our backyard, I thought about one farmer I visited with in August.  Last spring’s wet weather kept Jim Anderson from planting a crop, but it didn’t prevent him from making conservation improvements on his 260-acre field that will provide environmental benefits next year and for generations.

“This is the right thing to do for this farm,” Anderson said. “It is very expensive to do, but it is the right thing to do for this farm.”

He added terraces, which look like a series of steps carved into the side of a field, to both decrease erosion and surface runoff. That’s important to Anderson because at the bottom of the field is Lake LaShane, which is a reservoir for the city of Lamoni. In addition, Anderson hired Steve Hofmann, a farmer who is also owner of Hofmann Excavating, to add drainage tile to his fields. The more than 13,600 feet of tile will help carry excess moisture away from his fields to optimize crop growth and reduce soil erosion.

Hofmann said adding terraces and tiling helps decrease erosion and surface runoff, which fits with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy’s efforts to reduce nutrients in water sources.

“Everything that’s bonded to the soil is going to stay right here,” Hofmann said. “It’s not going to wash down stream.”

Like Anderson, farmers across Iowa are doing the right thing on their farms by preserving their ground and protecting their water sources using a variety of techniques—like terraces and tiling. And they are embracing technology—like using GPS to accurately apply fertilizers and weed killers only where they’re needed. This reduces the amount of fertilizer and weed killers used and the area they are used on.

Check out Iowa Farm Bureau’s Conservation Counts website  to see more examples of how Iowa farmers are continually improving their conservation methods.

So the next time my husband and I rake and determine the best methods in which to care for our little backyard, I’ll think of Jim, and other farmers, who are taking steps to care for the environment on a much larger scale.

By Bethany Baratta.

Bethany is the commodities writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.