Grass and grain the Heffern choice
Chuck Heffern is winner of the rangeland award that will be given at the conservation district annual meeting Saturday evening. Wife Linda will also be recognized, as well as their sons, Chris, Clint and Colton, who all have played a role in what has transpired on the Heffern spread.
The Hefferns built their home on 80 acres south of Iola, not far from where he grew up. They’ve added ground since, some through purchases, other by lease agreements.
In the beginning, Heffern raised crops on a portion of the ground, but then turned his attention solely to a cow-calf operation which required him to clear the land and seed the cropland to grass.
Undergrowth once was so heavy “it was hard to drive a tractor through it.” Even when successful, its tracks “were hidden from sight.”
Today, Heffern, has a herd of 25 cows, with two bulls on deck.
He also built two ponds and cleaned another of its silt. Two ponds are totally fenced off and connected to frost-free tanks that make winter water available without the tiresome chore of chopping ice. A third pond has restricted access, with a fenced lane directing the animals to an ideal drinking spot.
That’s pretty much the long and short of why the Hefferns were selected for the award.
There is more.
IN ANOTHER dimension of time and space Heffern, 54, would have adapted well to living off the land.
Lined along the walls of his organized garage, the favored way to their home’s interior, are a pair of camouflage chest waders, two intricately strung hunting bows and several deer skulls sporting racks of several sizes and configurations that attest to hunting successes.
The real prizes are inside. One mount has a 24-inch-wide rack festooned with points; others are nearly as awesome.
He and his sons have hunted for years, and many of the deer came from their land.
To give them better chances of success, Heffern purchased and dedicated 25 acres adjoining his original 80 to wildlife habitat.
A hill dominates the parcel, and cropland that once skirted the high ground was seeded to a couple of varieties of bluegrass, on the advice of quail habitat experts with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
The bluegrass is favored because its clumpiness permits young quail easier pathways to seek sustenance.
On top of the hill, Heffern fashioned a huge wagon wheel configuration with spokes leading through timber and brush, an enticement for wildlife meandering the area.
CONVERTING to a cow-calf operation was dictated in part by his work-a-day job as assistant superintendent of Iola’s power plant. Maintaining a cash-crop farm is time-intensive, while a cow-calf approach is more suitable to the demands of a day job and family, particularly with three boys who were involved in school sports.
Chris earned a construction degree from Pittsburg State University and works with a company in Texas. Clint, also a PSU grad, teaches history and coaches football, basketball and baseball at Colgan High School in Pittsburg. Colton trained at a vocational school in Manhattan and works as a lineman for Chanute. Colton also is at hand to help dad with cattle and any other farm tasks that arise.
Hunting often brings the family together.
“We had some good quail hunting this year,” Heffern said, a refreshing report for local hunters who have found a dearth of the birds for many seasons. “They are making a comeback,” and are likely to continue their resurgence with landowners such as Heffern willing to give them a conducive environment.
While Heffern and the boys are tending cattle, hunting or trapping, wife Linda keeps the home fires burning, and also teaches math at Iola Middle School.