Conservation Comments by Kristin Hargens 8-14-13

Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:00 am

The regular annual membership meeting for the Big Sioux Nursery in Watertown, was held July 31 at the nursery. The nursery is located north of Watertown on Sioux Conifer road. The registration and morning tours started at 10 a.m. The business meeting started at 11 a.m. with the election of directors following at 11:45 a.m. The Big Sioux Nursery board of directors has seven members from seven regions in the state. Each district has one vote to elect this board.

A noon lunch was served by a local catering service, Kenny Kittelson. He is a farmer in that area and what a cook he is!! The staff was introduced to all and between the full time staff they have about 217 years of experience and the part-time staff has 142 years.

Then the tours started. We toured the nursery tree beds on a bus driven tour. The walking tours consisted of the grading shed, the cooler, tree lifting demonstration and the potted stock they are growing, the trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses that they sell.

The Big Sioux nursery was started as a state nursery in the ‘50s and when in 1996, then-Governor Bill Janklow thought it was losing money he decided to either close it or get rid of it. Thanks to Gene Williams, SDACD President and Kristi Lewis, SDACDE president, they did the leg work to form a non-profit corporation made up of the conservation districts of South Dakota, and with the help of a grant from the conservation commission and dues from each district, the districts purchased it.

Blaine Martian, the Executive Director (35 years), G John Larson, Assistant manager (29 years) and Dorothy Linderer, office manager (34 years) all have a lot of experience with our nursery. When the districts took over the nursery the equipment and buildings were old. Now we have purchased some new equipment, added a fourth cooler, and built a new shop with chemical storage and mixing shed. They really have a full-time job growing all those trees that we plant in the spring.

When the districts took over the nursery we sold as many as three million trees and this past year we were down to about 900,000. We saw an example of Siberian Larch, which is an evergreen that loses its needles in the winter and sprouts all new growth the following spring. I think we may have to try some of these. They are a drought-hardy tree and grow best in the worst conditions, it seems. Now that we are tearing up more trees than we are planting, the nursery has had to broaden their horizons. They are planting oats and corn that are harvested, pumpkins, squash etc. and offering them for sale. They have a promotion in the fall to promote the pumpkins and I hear the displays are beautiful. It seems everyone is suffering from high commodity prices.

Just remember, you can take a tree down in a day but it takes years to replace it.

Remember: Trees provide valuable soil erosion control. The roots anchor soil particles in place and the canopy intercepts raindrops, reducing their erosive impact on the soil below. Leaf litter and other organic matter accumulate on the soil surface as mulch and is slowly incorporated into the soil, providing habitat for beneficial organisms. Contact Hand County Conservation District for more information and help in planting. Call 605-853-2410 #3. Ask for Kristin and if I can’t help you; I know someone who can!!


Conservation Comments by Kristin Hargens

Hand County Conservation District Manager