Lawrence Barnett’s first view of soil conservation came when he wasn’t tall enough to see over the tracks of a bulldozer.
His father had hired a contractor to build an erosion-control dam on a gully cutting across a crop field. The dam wasn’t meant to hold water, just slow its runoff and direct it through an overflow pipe. The result over several years of the runoff picking up silt on its pathway was a fertile field. Today the field is nearly flat from one end to the other.
Barnett and wife, Sandy, live near where he was raised in rural Humboldt. Their home is a log cabin — grander than the name might imply with several rooms and two stories — that over several years they have finished themselves. It overlooks a creek and lightly timbered areas where deer, turkeys and even bobcats frequently are seen passing through.
It’s the perfect setting for a man whose strength is in family. This winter he has been building cedar chests in a spacious shop for his wife and daughters Deedra and Randi, both students at Pittsburg State University.
The Barnett spread includes 1,700 acres of farm ground in cooperation with his parents, Harold and Anita Barnett.
For their efforts to conserve soil, the Barnetts will be honored at the Allen County Conservation District annual meeting Wednesday evening in the Iola High School commons.
THEIR MOST recent conservation venture has been to build waterways, seeded to native grass, and terraces on 240 areas. It’s an ongoing process, Barnett said. He’s aso working on 53 acres a mile east of Humboldt, where the Barnetts owned and operated Eastside Tire for 24 years until selling it in 2008.
He remains involved in the tire business selling tire shop equipment two or three days a week, does some construction work and helps Jim Jarred, who farms the Barnett ground.
All of the tillable acres in the Barnett operation, except a 168-acre field next to the Neosho River as flat as a table top, has had conservation practices installed, but many are at the age when they need replaced, Barnett said. Some of the soil-saving structures date back 20 to 30 years.
“We’re starting round two,” he said.
In addition to typical efforts to control soil erosion and direct water, the Barnetts, often with help of their daughters, have planted about 2,200 trees, many to accentuate their home.
“We have oak, flowering dogwood, pecan, walnut and maple,” he said. “And,” chimed in Randi, “fruit trees — apple, peach and pear.”
The fruit trees have started to bear. Testimony to the orchard’s success is that Barnetts put up over 100 quarts of apple pie filling, apple butter and pear honey last fall.
While livestock is not a feature of the Barnett spread, some areas have been seeded to grass, as buffer strips near water and to control erosion in areas where farming is not an option.