VERNON COUNTY, Wisc. (WLAX) — A family-owned farm in Vernon County is setting the standard for conservation agriculture.
Kevin and Carolyn Parr raised their family at Harmony Hills Farm near Viroqua, the same farm where Kevin was born and raised.
Once Kevin took over the day-to day operations, he decided to try a new method of farming. He began conservation farming in the 1980s, a practice that made sense to him the more he spoke to experts about the benefits of conservationism.
“It’s the state of Wisconsin and Vernon County and all these programs that they offered, and if you talked to these conservationists it’s a no brainer, it’s easy to figure out,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m doing the right thing, but I’m trying to do the right thing for future generations so this farm will be here for years to come.”
Kevin explained conservation farming as taking “quality soil, quality animals, quality water and preserving it” for future generations.
“That’s what it’s all about is preserving the land,” he said. “I don’t care whether it be the land, the earth or the woods.”
Harmony Hills was started by Kevin’s grandfather in the 1950s. Soon after Kevin’s father took over the farm, Kevin decided he wanted to be part of the family legacy.
“After high school I wasn’t college bound or anything like that,” he said. “I was probably farming since I was 15 years old, and I knew from the time I was 15 I wanted to farm, and it’s because of family. If it wouldn’t have been for my parents, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Due to their decades of work at Harmony Hills, the Parrs were recognized as the 2020 Wisconsin Conservation Farmers of the Year. The couple gave credit to those who helped them realize conservation could work for their operation.
“This is the second time that Vernon County has received this award,” Kevin said. “And I think that goes back to the people we have at Vernon County and all of these organizations and NRCS and Land-Water Conservation.”
Ben Wojahn with the Vernon County Land and Water Conservation is one of the people Kevin said he is thankful to have for assistance. Wojahn helps farmers in the county determine if conservation is right for them.
Wojahn said to have a successful conservation agriculture business, the farmer must keep the land covered at all times while still having a profitable farm.
“If we have cover crops, if we have grass waterways, if we have contour strips, those are all examples of keeping the soil covered,” he said. “Still good, profitable feed for our animals, our livestock and holding the water and soil in place.”
Kevin said he is proud to be representing Vernon County through the award, providing a spotlight for an area that he has loved his entire life.
“We’ve had people come here from the city, and they’ve never seen a sunset, the stars at night, the moon…the stars at night, the moon, the fog in the valley when it raises; there’s so many things,” he said. “I’ve been all over the United States and Canada, and there’s no place I’d rather be.”