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Grandson honors grandfather by winning award

Staff writer

Ed Svitak of Pilsen has been known by many names. Born a Deines, he became a Hett, but because of the bonding that developed between him and his grandfather, the late Ed Svitak, he took on the Svitak name as an adult.

Known as “Eddy” to friends and relatives, Svitak began farming with his grandfather when he was in high school, a relationship that continued until his grandfather died about two years ago.

The two men, conveniently referred to as Big Ed and Little Ed, decided to implement soil conservation practices on the farm.

After Big Ed’s death in November 2012, Eddy carried on. He and his wife, Mindi, will receive a Banker Award for their efforts Feb. 21 at the annual Marion County Conservation District banquet.

The Banker Award is given to an operator who has met conservation requirements on an entire farm.

Svitak said about 15 years ago he and his grandfather became concerned about the ditches and gullies marring their fields. Big Ed tried stopgap measures that weren’t very successful. Svitak saw using cost-share programs offered by the local conservation district as a better way to go.

After Big Ed was persuaded to go that way, the men began establishing waterways and terraces on their land. Now, almost all of the farm’s 1,200 acres are covered by a conservation plan.

“If you let it go, the ditches get deep and it’s hard to farm,” Svitak said. “Conservation keeps the soil from washing, keeps chemicals out of the creek, and saves moisture.”

The last 160 acres the couple acquired had a 28-acre meadow with a ditch running through it. Svitak had no use for the grass, so he put 10 acres of waterways into it and made the whole quarter of land farmable.

Svitak said it took special planning by local conservationists because a lot of water from adjoining properties was flowing through his property. He was pleased with the results.

Svitak said he has even put terraces in fields where the conservation district said they weren’t needed.

“I thought the fields needed it,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of time and money into terraces. They’re kind of a pain to farm, but I think they are worth it.”

Wheat is the main crop grown on Svitak’s farm. Corn and soybeans are used in rotation. Beans and sunflowers are sometimes planted as double crops.

Svitak has been doing no-till farming for several years, which he said has almost eliminated soil erosion between the terraces.

The next step in his conservation plan is to use cover crops to protect the soil, conserve moisture, and add humus. He plans to experiment with sowing oats in wheat stubble this summer. The oats will be fertilized and allowed to grow a foot or more before being burned down with chemical. Svitak will plant corn into the resulting ground cover next spring.

“No-till works together with other conservation measures to protect the soil,” he said. “The plan saved a couple of fields.”

Last modified Feb. 12, 2015

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