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On the Fence - Introducing John Wilson

Wilson Acreage
My 160 acres of heaven.

February 2017

You’ll notice a slight change in the title of this feature. I tried to convince my neighbor, good friend, and former co-worker, Steve Tonn, to continue contributing his article “Talking over the Fence” to the Acreage eNewsletter. However, he assured me he had plenty of plans for his retirement... and this was NOT one of them. (I think I missed a meeting when I got nominated to carry on the tradition set by Steve.)

I wanted to change the title just a little because I may have a little different perspective on rural issues. I chose the title “On the Fence” because it kind of describes where I’m coming from. I thought about suggesting “Straddling the Fence” to the editors, but that sounded really uncomfortable... and my legs aren’t that long!

My Background

I grew up on a family farm near Clarks, Nebraska, in the Platte River Valley where things were flat and sandy. When they kicked me out of college (University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.S. and M.S. in Agronomy) and told me I’d had enough fun, now go get a job, I ended up in Burt County as the “County Agent.” About five job titles later, I’m still in the same office. One of the first things that first struck me about Burt County was I wasn’t in the Platte River Valley anymore, I had hills and gumbo!

My primary responsibility with Nebraska Extension is with “Innovative Water and Crops Systems.” Translated, this means I work with crop production and the farmers producing our crops and the agribusinesses supporting them. So my experiences growing up, my education in college, and my primary work responsibilities are all on the commercial crop production agriculture side of the fence.

So you may be asking, what do I know about the acreage owner side of the fence? Well, for years I’ve always carved out a little of my time to work on acreage issues, helping plan acreage workshops, writing articles and recording videos for this newsletter, and working with acreage owners in the area.

About My Acreage

Then 16 years ago, after years of looking, my wife and I took the plunge and bought our own “acreage.” I have acreage in quotes because it is different than most acreages. It is 160 acres that was in CRP and trees, completely undeveloped... not even a road, water, electricity or phone service into it. We had to walk from a neighbor’s driveway to get on the ground to look at it when it came up for sale.

Since then we’ve done lots of things many acreage owners have done, regardless of the size of their corner of heaven: built a driveway, built a house (ours is a log home) and a machine shed, drilled a well, established a septic system, planted a lawn, landscaped around the house, encouraged some wildlife to come to our feeders, discouraged other wildlife from devouring our landscape, keep several pets (a dog and two cats), cut and split firewood, keep a tractor and blade to clean my driveway so I can get out (or in) during winter (⅜ mile of private driveway and ⅜ mile of county road only used by my neighbors and me to get to a main country road), cut and spray thistles and other noxious weeds, etc.

We’ve also done things that might not apply to every acreage: built and stocked a five-acre pond, manage a 25 acre woodlot (a project in its infancy), conducted controlled burns on 130 acres of CRP, planted 13 acres of wildflower pollinators and another 30 acres of alfalfa that is allowed to bloom in my CRP to promote pollinators, have a former 4-H’er who keeps beehives on my place for commercial honey production (I don’t maintain the hives, I just eat the honey), planted thousands of shrubs  and trees in my CRP for wildlife habitat and travel corridors (I ordered 425 tree and shrub seedlings to plant by hand this spring if anyone wants to help!), planted food plots in my CRP for wildlife, etc.

My wife and I both hunt so we process a lot of the meat we eat and we buy very little through the year (my apologies to my friends and neighbors who raise beef and swine for not supporting you better). My acreage is surrounded on 1½ sides by CRP and 2½ sides by commercial crop production. So I have neighbors on both sides of the fence. Hopefully this gives you some insight to why I can see rural issues from both a farmer’s and an acreage owner’s perspective.

Well, I’ve rambled on longer than Sarah and Nicole told me I had (maybe they’ll fire me ☺, but probably not ☹! LOL). I just wanted to introduce myself so you had some idea of who was writing the new feature, why it might not sound just like Steve’s articles, and a little about me so you know where I’m coming from. I plan to include a mix of things you might see happening around you in commercial agricultural production and things I’m dealing with on my acreage that most farmers wouldn’t be doing.

If you ever have a question for me, click on the link below my image in this article to send me an email. I’ll try to get back to you as quickly as I can or pass the question along to someone that could answer it better than I can. But depending on the time of year, it might take several days to get back to you. So until next month and a normal article (some people would say they never heard of me doing anything normal!), I wish you well and look forward to visiting with you again.


John's Last Resort
On the Fence. Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights,
On the Fence with John Wilson
Extension Educator - Innovative Cropping and Water Systems
Nebraska Extension Educator John Wilson discusses life on an acreage.

Location: Based in Burt County with responsibilities in Thurston and Dakota counties; statewide responsibilities with soybean cyst nematode education
Program Areas: Crop Production, particularly corn, soybeans & alfalfa; integrated pest management, particularly insects, diseases & nematodes
Focus Area: Soybean cyst nematodes and soybean diseases
Education: BS and MS degrees in agronomy (crop production option) from University of Nebraska-Lincoln