Jim and Valerie Hebbe, along with their daughter, Ashley, operate a cash grain farm in Green Lake County. In his nearly 30 years of experience in melding conservation and agriculture, Jim is the essence of adaptive management.
Jim began farming in 1983 by renting some land from his father. He planted field corn, using conventional tillage, resulting in poor yields. Following a couple of attempts, Jim realized that he needed a system that conserved soil moisture and improved organic matter. This led him to no-till farming in 1986, when he purchased his first piece of farm machinery, a no-till drill, and he’s never looked back.
Today, Jim and Valerie Hebbe farm 1,100 acres, producing field corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa. In addition to no-till planting all of their crops, the Hebbes have implemented numerous conservation systems that complement each other and lead to less erosion and more residue cover on the land. A water and sediment basin was constructed to help reduce field runoff from a significant slope that drains into Snake Creek, the farm’s Class 1 trout stream. To further enhance the soil and water quality of the farm, the Hebbes planted native prairie grasses in a field that borders the creek. Through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Hebbes planted 25 acres of evergreen trees in what was once light and sandy soil.
The Hebbes are leaders in conservation and agriculture. They often host field days to demonstrate what they have learned about agriculture and conservation. Jim has worked as the conservationist for Green Lake County for nearly 30 years and is currently the county’s Land Conservation Director. In 1985 he helped develop conservation standards for Farmland Preservation Program participants to control soil erosion to sustainable levels. He also enacted an ordinance, requiring environmentally sound manure storage structures, which set a standard statewide.
“Aldo Leopold is one of the founding fathers of conservation, and I believe Jim is strongly carrying on that same tradition,” wrote Diane Cole, Badgerland Financial, in her nomination letter. “Jim is an excellent spokesperson for conservation.”