Sarah Lake is like superwoman for farmers. When they have troubles with erosion, conservation or soil health, all they have to do is phone in a request and she’ll drop by to give advice on preventing erosion and making good conservation decisions.
“There are many things I do,” Lake said. “The first and the biggest is I provide erosion control for farmers.”
Lake is a resource specialist for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Division of Soil Conservation in Kokomo, and she primarily works with farmers in Howard, Tipton, Cass and Carroll counties.
“If a farmer has erosion in the field or along the bank, we come out and survey the area and design an erosion control practice,” Lake said.
She said erosion makes it impossible for farmers to grow crops.
“It affects farms because the top soil, which is the most productive soil on a farm, has the best organic matter and nutrition,” Lake said. “If that’s being washed away by the rain, then the farmer isn’t going to have good enough soil to build crops on.”
Lake said she thinks erosion is definitely becoming a bigger problem in the region.
“It’s definitely an issue, and it seems like the storms are getting bigger and more frequent,” Lake said. “There are areas that haven’t had erosion problems before that are having them now.”
A recent of example of a farm she has worked with had three different erosion problems, so she designed a block chute.
A block chute is a grade stabilization structure to prevent erosion. It is built with cinder blocks and designed to hold the soil in place as the water runs over the edge of a bank, keeping soil runoff to a minimum.
Lake also can help with gullies, or water worn ravines, on a farm.
“If you get a gully, you can’t drive in it to plant fields,” Lake said. “You have to go around it and it hinders farm production.”
The process involves surveying how much water is coming into the area and designing a waterway, she said.
The third thing Lake assists with is recommendations for improving water quality, which can be enhanced by planting grass and trees, she said.
“It helps with erosion and to filter out soil and any kind of nutrients that could be washing off into the stream,” Lake said.
If farmers are having problems with erosion on their farm, they can call their local soil and water conservation district and request a specialist to take a look.
“If it needs engineering work like surveying and design, they will get referred to someone like me, and then I’ll go out with a soil and water conservation district representative,” Lake said.
She said a survey of the land will be done and all of that information will be taken back to the office and run through design programs.
This is where Lake conceives of contraptions like block chutes. Usually the farmer hires a contractor to complete the recommended work, she said. And afterward, she will come back to make sure it was done properly.
Phil Overdorf has farms both in Howard and Tipton counties, and Lake has aided with both.
“So far we’re really happy with what she’s done for us,” Overdorf said. “We’ve worked with Sarah on different projects, going back a ways. But recently, we’ve done different structures along an open ditch that I think has been really helpful.”
Lake designed structures for Overdorf’s farms that stabilized the banks of the streams and work to prevent soil erosion.
“Top soil here in the Midwest is very valuable,” Overdorf said.
He said with erosion prevention also comes cleaner waterways.
“In doing that, you’re improving water quality as well,” Overdorf said. “One of the most important things is cleaner water. So, if you’re not washing the sediment from the banks of streams, that dirt isn’t going into the water.”
What Sarah Lake can help you with: Must be in Howard, Tipton, Cass or Carroll county Lake helps with erosion, conservation and soil health issues. Contact info: 765-457-2114