Kurt and Wayne Kaup own and manage K & W Farms in Stuart, Neb., where they raise hogs and crops on the eastern edge of the Sandhills. With a commitment to improving natural resources, the Kaups are leaders in implementing no-till farming strategies combined with irrigation water management and the use of cover crops to improve the health of the soil, reduce erosion and recycle nutrients. Cover crops, in conjunction with the no-till farming, are promoting more soil organic matter and increasing the waterholding capacity of the soil.
Understanding how their farming practices impact the environment around them, the Kaups have planted shelterbelts and food plots for wildlife, and have left standing grain for winter food to benefit wildlife ranging from grassland dependent birds to pollinators such as native bees and monarch butterflies. The family has also removed deciduous trees to take away “raptor perches” to help prevent predation on pheasants, prairie chickens, grouse and songbirds. Other trees have been planted for wildlife protection. In recent years, populations of pheasant, quail, deer, turkey and other wildlife have increased.
The environmental gem of K & W Farms is a spring-fed cold water trout stream that originates on the property. The Kaup’s stewardship of the stream has produced a strong conservation partnership with Nebraska Game and Parks and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. A dam, built in the 1950’s and rebuilt in 2016, created a large pond that supports trout growth and reproduction. Originally stocked with trout in the 1970s, it has maintained a healthy population since. The pond stays open year-round, and is a refuge for local and migrating waterfowl.
Just below the dam is another short stream that is heavily fed by groundwater springs. This section supports a diverse native fish community including both common native stream fishes and plains top minnow, one of Nebraska’s endemic species prioritized for conservation in the State Wildlife Action Plan. A next phase will concentrate on making enhancements to the cold-water stream, including installing fish habitat structures.
“The Kaups have gone out of their way to help others look at different ways of improving their own farming operations.” said Jon Ludwig, Water Quality Specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “This is truly a family farm dedicated to the land and preserving it for the future.”