Cows drinking at a stream
(Photo credit: Andrew Bowden / Flickr)

For more than fifty years, the Barbour family has raised beef cattle. Their Pennsylvania farm is in a pastoral setting with rolling hills for the cattle to forage – and a stream flowing through the property.

When Ted Barbour was a kid, the cattle could wade in the stream.

Barbour: “It was a continuous pastured area, so when it was wet and muddy, the cattle would trample all of the forage into the ground, and it would just be like sort of a mud hole so to speak. And when the high waters came, it washed all that topsoil down the stream.”

But not anymore. Fifteen years ago, Barbour fenced the cattle out of the stream. He put the adjacent land into the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

The program pays farmers to take land out of production to protect the environment. Barbour created a buffer of trees and plants to stabilize the streambank and filter pollution.

Now when it rains, the vegetation absorbs nutrients and manure before they can enter the water.

Barbour: “Let the plants absorb that and grow from that, as opposed to letting that go into the water system … it just simply is just good common sense.”

And an important way to protect water quality as climate change brings more rainfall to Pennsylvania.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.