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This information comes directly from the Oregon office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. We’ve copied it here for your convenience, but feel free to go to the source.


STEPS for Healthy & Sustainable Rural Living on Small Acreages in Oregon: Tools and Resources to Design a Customized Land Management Strategy for Your Small Acreage Property

Helping Small Acreage Landowners Help the Land

If you live in rural Oregon, you likely enjoy the peaceful countryside and scenic landscapes. You have a connection to your land, and you want to do all you can to care for it. The worksheets in the STEPS Workbook will help you identify strategies to maintain and improve the natural resources on your property.

To request a printed copy of the STEPS Workbook, contact your local NRCS Service Center. Or, you can download and print the pages from the links provided below.

The following documents require Adobe Acrobat.

STEP 1: Complete the Land Management Goals worksheet.

This worksheet was developed to help you focus your efforts. Each goal includes common considerations that you may need to address. Space is provided to add additional items specific to your unique situation.

STEP 2: Inventory the resources on your land.

Complete the Property Map and Natural Resource Inventory pages. These will provide a base of information for you to reference as you work through the other worksheets. Your property map and natural resource inventory will help you move forward in planning strategies, actions and improvements.

STEP 3: Complete the worksheets that relate to your land.

Each worksheet contains a set of questions to help you assess conditions and evaluate how your management decisions affect natural resources. The worksheets include alternative actions for improvement and resources for more information.

As you answer the questions provided on the STEPS worksheets, you will begin to assess conditions on your land and learn about a number of management options. Keep in mind that the alternatives provided are general in nature. The distinct features of your land—and the specific uses and goals you have for it—make each situation unique. As you begin to identify actions that may be appropriate, consider whether you can begin to make these improvements on your own.

Many options will require specific considerations pertaining to the unique geography, hydrology, plants, wildlife and other features and conditions on your property. Some of these activities could require technical expertise; you may want to contact a natural resource professional for detailed assessments, conservation planning and recommendations. Sources for more information and assistance are listed in each section.

STEP 4: Identify the options and actions right for you.

On each worksheet, you will find management options, information resources and contact information. You may find you can make improvements on your own, or you may decide to obtain professional assistance for more intensive treatments, such as structural or engineered practices. Whatever options you choose, each section of the STEPS packet will help you find more information and assistance.

If You Want to Go a Few More Steps

You may find that while the STEPS worksheets have helped you advance your land management goals, you would also like to address additional objectives or more complex issues.

More detailed evaluation processes are available through a variety of outlets. In addition, more comprehensive technical assistance is available through businesses and local, state, federal and non-profit entities. If you would like additional assistance, contact your local NRCS or Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office.

Glossary of Terms (PDF, 75 K)
Resources (Contacts & Acronyms) (PDF, 1 K)

Thinking Things Through

It is up to you whether you want your rural acreage as an income-producing operation or simply as a lifestyle.

Business Planning

Planning will help you communicate your ideas to potential lenders, family, business partners and the community. It will help you consider practices and compatible alternatives to your operation.

One well respected guide to business planning is “Building a Sustainable Business – A guide to developing a business plan for farms and rural businesses.” The guide is produced by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and is available online at no cost at http://www.misa.umn.edu/vd/bizplan.html.

Take a Class

On the local front, Clackamas Community College has a variety of courses designed for those interested in agri-business and in planning and management practices.

The college offers a Small Business Development program to start and grow your own business enterprise. There are also numerous classes of interest, including landscaping, nursery operations, plant and pest management and even more through the college’s respected horticulture program. Learn more at www.clackamas.edu or call the college at 503-657-6958.

Even if you are not looking to generate income from your property, creating and using a plan can be surprisingly valuable.

Plan your Homestead

Consider the compatibility of livestock, crops, pastures, fencing, outbuildings and so on. Do you really want to disrupt streamside land to plant crops? Will the lay of the land help you decide what to plant? Do you need a water source to do what you want? And, is your property zoned for what you want to do?

Tools for Homestead Planning

A useful tool for planning your homestead is the Tips brochure (Tips on Land and Water Management for Small Acreages in Oregon) available online or in print from your local Conservation District.

Oregon State University’s Small Farms Web site also contains valuable information for beginning farmers. It contains sections on selecting enterprises on the farm, sustainable agriculture and links to other small and large farm sites, a newsletter and a calendar of small farm workshops. Visit http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/beginning_farmers for more information.

Conservation Tips

You are a steward of your land and resources

When you live on a piece of land, you become responsible for the preservation and enhancement of that land and wise use of its natural resources. It is less a matter of building on the work of previous generations than preparing it for future ones. You become the steward of the property and are responsible for protecting the soil, water, air and wildlife that come with it or leave from it.

Leave your land healthier

Taking care of the land rewards you environmentally, economically and socially. Property values are enhanced, as well as the overall economic vitality of the region you are a part of. You become a responsible steward when you leave the property healthier than when you found it.

Conservation Tips to Help You Improve Your Property

Control pests

Start with a pest control practice that will have the lowest impact on soil and water health. If you find it necessary to use pesticides and herbicides, follow the directions on the label and use the ones that are least toxic and will not accumulate in the soil and water.

Remove standing water and keep invasive weeds controlled to reduce mosquitoes and other harmful insects or disease.

Implement an Integrated Pest Management plan which can reduce chemical use.

Plant buffers and native vegetation

Create a buffer of vegetation at least 20 feet wide along a stream, pond or road ditch to filter runoff, absorb excess nutrients and chemicals as well as provide increased habitat diversity.

To attract wildlife, plant native trees, shrubs and other vegetation that offer cover and food.

Keep water clean

Make sure the water that leaves your property is as clean as the water that comes in. Protect water quality by reducing the amount of nutrients, chemicals, animal waste and sediment entering streams.

Protect your drinking water. Store any toxin­—such as pesticides, fertilizer, fuel and paint—away from your well house. If stored in the well house, these materials can spill or leak into the wellhead, contaminating your water supply and that of your neighbors.

Use less water

Use only the water essential for your needs. Don’t overwater. Use conservation practices to protect the water sources on your land.

Drip irrigation minimizes the amount of water that evaporates while it maximizes the amount that is used by plants. Water early in the morning, in the evening or at night.

Grow plants matched to your climate and soil

Make crop choices that best match your land and site. Before planting crops, take a soils test and know the nutrient and water requirements of both the soil and the crops. Consider if the slopes, microclimates and other land characteristics will be a better match for livestock, crops or trees.

Healthy pasture means healthy animals

Keep animals and pastures healthy by dividing your land into several grazing areas and rotating your livestock from area to area. Cross fencing and rotation grazing increases useable forage, controls weed infestations and reduces mud, which will enhance animal health and performance. Manage your herd size—know how many animals your pasture can maintain.

Keep animals out of streams

Fencing prevents livestock from trampling streambanks, destroying vegetation and stirring up sediment in the streambed.

Recycle nutrients by using manure

Manure spreader available for rent

Turn manure into fertilizer or “black gold.” During the winter months collect and store manure properly in a high and dry area with a cover. During the growing season spread manure when crops can use manure nutrients.

Protect your property from fire

Make sure your property is defensible from fire and take care when burning. What you burn is air-mailed and if a fire leaves your property you are responsible for any damage.

For more information…

For assistance in implementing these conservation tips, please contact the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District at 503-210-6000 or email us!