The Franklin Family: Farming with the Future in Mind
Water conservation is not a new concept to western Kansas farmers, but the Franklin family farm has led by example and is now has water technology research being conducted on some of their fields. The research is part of the Kansas Governor’s Water Vision program and is one of several water technology farms in Kansas to are researching the most efficient and sustainable ways to use irrigation to grow crops in drier climates. The research is supported by Kansas farmers through their corn checkoff, the Kansas Corn Commission.
Sherman County farmers Tim Franklin and his father, Gerald, have a history in conservation and were the first Kansas farmers to enroll in the state’s Water Conservation Area (WCA) program. When the opportunity came up to build on that commitment to water conservation by partnering with the Northwest Kansas Technical College Precision Ag program’s Water Technology Farm they couldn’t pass it up.
“They were looking for a place to put some technology out in the field,” says Tim, “so we volunteered to take a closer look at some moisture probes. Part of the agreement was if we continued on with that program with a dealer, then we became the owners of the probe. So that was kind of the incentive to try them out and they could see the data and how we managed the crop as well from a learning perspective here at the tech college.”
Both Tim and his father agree that the knowledge they’ve gained from the moisture probes and the ability to use the technology to improve their management of their irrigation systems has been the biggest benefit of this partnership.
“In a dry year we’ll have to turn our wells on and run,” Tim says, “but in a wet year like we’ve had it’s nice to have a data source to say our soil is saturated. Our soil can hold a half an inch or it can hold an inch. It’s helpful when we have a rain two days away and the technology tells us our crop will not stress until then so we’re able to hold off and see if the rain is going to come or not before we decide to turn the wells on.”
Their farm is under their own WCA, but it also falls under the Groundwater Management District Four’s district wide Local Enhanced Management Area. Tim says this technology and learning opportunity with the Water Tech Farm has helped their farm stay below the water use restrictions and save water for future use. They’ve also learned that at these use-levels they have continued to optimize their inputs and protect the profitability of their acres.
“On our farm I would say we talk more about profitability on an acre vs. yield on an acre,” he says. “We want to raise corn where we are profitable and that’s matching inputs to the soil and to the water that we have available on that acre. So our goal is to be the most profitable that we can on every single acre.”
As western Kansas farmers, thinking about water is something that will never go away. However, Tim hopes to continue learning how to manage it, because it’s something important to his family and the future of their farm.