Clarence & Lila Arensdorf of Sutherland, Nebraska
Clarence & Lila Arensdorf are being recognized for a long-standing commitment to conserve and enhance the grasslands of southwestern McPherson County. Clarence has lived and worked there his entire life on land that has been in the family since 1919, when Clarence’s Dad, N.G. (Nick) Arensdorf, bought the property. Clarence and Lila were married in 1949, and they have been taking care of the place ever since. In 1953, they bought out the family’s land and cattle.
In 1967, they added the purchase of an adjoining section of land. The land that Clarence and Lila own includes some good, loamy soil that was suitable for dryland farming over the years. Using conservation practices such as strip cropping and crop rotations, they were able to raise alfalfa, rye, corn, and oats. At one point, over 100 acres of alfalfa was grown there. This diversity enabled their operation to be quite self-sufficient. For these efforts, the Arensdorfs also received the Twin Platte Natural Resources District’s Conservation Picture Award in 1988. Over the years, most of the cropland has been gradually seeded back to stands of native grasses.
The planted warm-season grasses represent species already found in adjacent pastures. These plants are deep rooted when good management follows their establishment, which allows them to continue being productive even in years when moisture is lacking on the surface. A lister planter provided the earliest re-introductions of grass seed back in the 1930’s. Then in 1986, 73 acres of the Arensdorfs cropland was seeded to grass through the Conservation Reserve Program. In 1993, another 30 acres of cropland were seeded to grass without any program assistance, as well as another 67 acres that recently began converting back to grass.
Currently, 40 additional acres are being seeded to grass through USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Only about 60 acres of cropland will remain on Arensdorfs upon completion of the 2004 grass seeding.