JK Acres of Brule, Nebraska

KalkowskiIn 1997, with the help of fellow farmer Dave Washa, Tom Kalkowski rented a few hundred acres of crop and accretion ground from the Brown Family Trust. Later, with the help of Mr. Gerald Brown, Tom purchased the ground he had been farming. Sheila and Jerry Jorgensen joined the farm in 1999. Years of grazing on the accretion ground had decimated the existing quail and pheasant populations. The eggs (and a few chicks that did hatch) were easy prey for predators since there was little cover to protect them.

In an effort to reverse the quail and pheasant declines, the trio planted trees and grasses in two pivot corners in 2000. Looking back, 2000 wasn’t the best year to begin planting trees. There was little precipitation to help the newly planted cedars. To keep the trees alive, Tom and Jerry used a 1,000 gallon fertilizer trailer filled with water and hooked to two garden hoses. This was a time consuming and labor intensive process. The next year, a 1,000 gallon tank equipped with a three-inch ball valve was used to water the trees. It made watering a one person operation; more water could be applied and it was faster.

The following years were quite dry but additional trees, bushes, and shrubs were planted anyway. The on-going drought required watering to keep the trees alive. To date, with the help of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District, some 9,000 trees and shrubs have been planted. The District has also cost-shared with approximately 11 miles of fabric mulch. Today these patches of trees and grasses provide nesting, food, cover, and escape to a diversity of wildlife. A 120-foot wide strip of western wheatgrass, switchgrass, little bluestem, and other grasses now border the south side of the accretion.

With the help of timely rains in 2007, the chokecherry shrubs produced their first fruit. This year the trio enrolled most of the accretion acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program. In the coming years, about two miles of wetlands will be restored. Special thanks go to Mary Reece and all of those who helped to carry this WRP project to completion. With the help of a restocking program, the quail and pheasant populations have rebounded. The benefits provided by the Twin Platte Natural Resources District to the wildlife, both resident and migratory, and our environment cannot be over-emphasized.

Hopefully this habitat will be enjoyed by generations to come. Sheila, Jerry, and Tom would like to thank the Twin Platte Natural Resources District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service for making these programs and cost-sharing available. Without their help and expertise, none of this would have been possible. We heartily recommend these programs to anyone who is looking to improve the wildlife habitat on their farm or ranch.

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