Conservation and Sustainability

NEWS RELEASE  FEBRUARY 16,2009
United States Department of Agriculture
An equal opportunity employer and provider

Natural Resources
Conservation Service
PHONE 620-583-6461

Luke Westerman, District Conservationist                                                                                                  FAX 620-583-6236
1819 East River Street
http://www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov
Eureka, KS  67045-2157
email luke.westerman@ks.usda.gov

Rupe Farms will be honored at the annual Greenwood County Conservation District Meeting as the winners of the 2008 Wildlife Habitat Award for Greenwood County.  Rupe Farms is owned by Glen and Caroline Rupe and operated by Randy and Tonia Rupe.

Glen and Caroline Rupe first purchased land in Greenwood County in 1973, buying 140 acres called the Osmundson Place northwest of Eureka.  The property was teaming with wildlife and had plentiful numbers quail and prairie chicken.  Glen’s favorite pastime is quail hunting so he immediately fell in love with the property.

In 1974, Glen and Caroline purchased 440 acres just north of Lapland.  They remodeled the house on the property in 1976 and used it as their headquarters of their expanding operation.

Through the late 1970s and 1980s, the Rupes diversified their oil operation by purchasing more Greenwood County property.  At one time, they were up to 7,000 acres of grassland and farmland.  The property was spread throughout Greenwood County and was difficult to manage, so they downsized their operation and currently own approximately 3,800 acres.

When Randy was 19, he moved to the property and took over the daily operation of the farm and cattle operation.  Randy did this for about 15 years and eventually went back to Wichita to start a construction business.  For a time, Randy’s brother, Tobin, was also a manager of the property.

In 2004, Randy and Tonia were living in Andover and would come out to the property on the weekends.  The pastures were being leased for yearling cattle and were being overgrazed.  From Randy’s previous experience managing the property, he could tell the long term sustainability of the pastures was being compromised by the heavy grazing.  Randy and Tonia offered to rent the pastures from Glen and he gladly accepted.  In 2006, Randy and Tonia moved from their home in Andover and purchased a home next to the property.

Much of the acreage is in native rangeland that Randy and Tonia stock with purebred Angus cows.  The property also includes nearly 300 acres of farmland the Rupes rent to Mark Hendrickson.  Several miles of high quality of riparian timber, on the banks of the East Branch of the Fall River, snake through the property as well.

Glen’s interest in wildlife has continued to be on the forefront in all management decisions made on the farm.  It is Glen’s objective to maintain the property as a profitable cattle and farm operation while still providing suitable wildlife habitat for numerous different species.   From the time the first property of was purchased through today, Glen has put in place numerous practices that enhance wildlife habitat.

One of the more recent practices Glen has installed was the seeding of filterstrips through the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP).  In 2004, Glen signed up for 15.3 acres of filterstrips in his crop fields.  The filterstrips were planted to native grass, and while providing great habitat for bobwhite quail, they also filter the water that is flowing off the crop field.  The native grasses in the filterstrips provide areas for the quail, as well as other birds, to nest in.

In 2006, the Rupes seeded 15 acres of cropland back to native grass and forbs with the assistance of the Kansas Department Wildlife and Parks.  The grass and forbs seeded were a mixture specially suited to providing ideal habitat for native grassland wildlife.

After Randy and Tonia moved back, Randy noticed the river running through their place had much more algae in the water than when he lived on the property several years ago.  Randy knew that if cattle had constant access to the river, they could add a large amount of nutrients to the water.  The nutrients in the water would then cause algae blooms.  In 2008, the Rupes constructed a pond in one of the pastures and then installed a fence to exclude the cattle from the river.  A water tank was placed below the pond to provide fresh clean water to the livestock.

Hedge trees were becoming a problem in another one of the pastures the Rupes recently purchased.  The pasture also had a few old crop fields that were seeded back to brome when it was no longer farmed.  In 2008, the Rupes entered into a Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to cut the hedge trees out of the pastures and reseed the brome to native grass.  Cutting the hedge trees in the pasture removed the potential perch sites for avian predators, and also prevented the hedge trees from crowding out the grass.

Randy and Tonia’s switch from early intensive stocking to a full season cow operation will also improve the wildlife habitat in the rangeland pastures.  Moderately stocked, season-long cows will provide a diverse habitat for wildlife such as greater prairie chicken and bobwhite quail.  Within the pasture, cows tend to graze certain areas short and leave other areas ungrazed.  This provides heterogeneity throughout the pasture that fits the habitat needs of grassland wildlife.

The taller grass that is not grazed can be used as escape cover and also provide ideal nesting habitat.  The shorter grazed areas provide areas for newborn chicks to travel through the pasture, without fighting through the tall grass.  The diversity in plant height also attracts numerous insects that are critical for the survival of young chicks.

The Rupe’s enthusiasm for improving the wildlife habitat on their property is evident by practices put in place.  They continue to implement and plan new projects that will allow their land to be a sustainable agriculture operation, while still leaving a home for wildlife.  Their hard work and determination has made them deserving of the 2008 Greenwood County Wildlife Habitat Award.

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2 Responses to “Conservation and Sustainability”

  1. geri watts Says:

    This is a great story about lucky star grass farm and ranch.

    Warm Regards,
    G

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