March 25, 2011

Gerald Giesler is Cooperator of the Year

STE. GENEVIEVE -- The Ste. Genevieve Soil and Water Conservation District has named Gerald Giesler its 2010 Cooperator of the Year.

Ste. Genevieve SWCD board members Lynn Messer, vice chairperson, Betty Vogt, member, Marcella Hotop, treasurer, Bob Eckenfels, chairman, with the Cooperator of the Year, Gerald Giesler and his mother Maxine Giesler.

Giesler explained the history of his farm.

"Some of my ancestors have made a living farming in Ste. Genevieve and Perry Counties since the late 1700ís. On my fathersí side, the Giesler and Lawrence families arrived in the 1830s. My great grandfather, Gideon Giesler and his wife, Henrietta Weberry Giesler moved from Ozora to H Road south of St. Mary in the late 1880ís. My grandfather, William Giesler and other family members farmed this land up until their retirements in the late 1970ís and 1980ís. My mothersí ancestors, the Allens, Meridiths, Burns and Hogards were early settlers in Bois Brule Bottom arriving in 1793. The Meredith family received a large Spanish land grant."

"Glennon and Maxine Brown Giesler moved on the farm in the fall of 1938 as tenants and by the fall of 1947 had accumulated sufficient savings to buy the farm. The farm was originally purchased from the Iron Mountain Railroad Company sometime in the 1870ís by Stephen Friedman, it was farmed by his descendants until the late 1920ís.

On the Giesler family farm they raised primarily cattle and hogs with a limited amount of row cropping. River bottom land was rented for corn production."

"The land in the river hills in Ste. Genevieve counties in the late 1930ís was primarily cleared after the civil war and the primary cash crop was wheat which was sold to Schaaf Milling in St. Mary to be processed into flour and itís by products."

The combination of continuous wheat production and the steep topography of the area resulted in severe erosion on the farm. After the Gieslerís purchased the farm, terraces were installed and wheat was restricted to the fields with less slope and gradually converted the others to fescue for grazing. This practice resulted in less soil loss than continuous wheat production, however, continuous grazing over the years resulted in more soil loss than desirable.

When Gerald took over management of the property after his fatherís death he was faced with the problem of how to produce income from this farm in a sustainable way. He was interested in managing the total resource base of the farm which includes forestry and wildlife resources as well as traditional agricultural resources. With help from Farm Service Agency, NRCS, MDC and the Ste. Genevieve County Soil and Water Conservation District the farm has less soil loss than before it was cleared.

In 1999 Natural Resource Conservation Service developed a soil saving crop production plan and forestry management plan and a wildlife management plan by MDC. Mr. Giesler then rented his farm to Earl and Randy Valle of Valle Farms. As a result of these plans and the technical and cost share assistance provided by these agencies, crop yields are higher than ever before with less soil loss than anytime since the land was cleared. Developing a forestry plan enabled Mr. Giesler to pay for some of the brush removal and terrace installations by means of a selective harvest which improved the forest and benefited the wildlife. The original fescue was destroyed and native grasses were then installed on the terraces to benefit wildlife with the aid from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Gerald and his family have a long history with the Farm Service Agency, Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District and NRCS. Both his mother and father were active in the Extension, FSA and Farm Bureau. Glennon served many years as a township committeeman and one term as county chairman of ASCS. He also served one term on the Soil and Water Conservation District board in Ste. Genevieve along with the Farm Bureau Board of Directors and served as a 4-H Club leader for over thirty years. Maxine Giesler served on the Balance Farming Extension Board of Directors.

Giesler added "I am very satisfied with results of the efforts on the farm. The farm is producing more income, more timber and a greater abundance of wildlife and fish than ever before. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the experts in the above agencies and Earl and Randy Valle of Valle Farms for making this accomplishment possible."

Giesler lives in St. Gabriel, Louisiana and has a Ph. D in Agricultural Economics. He was a professor at Southeast Missouri State University for 10 years and then went on to Louisiana State University from 1978-2005. He is currently Professor Emeritus at Louisiana State University.