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Creating a grazing movement in Sauk County

Story and content by Jacob Grace

Serge Koenig has been serving Sauk County, Wisconsin as a county conservationist for the past 27 years. So, needless to say – he knows the community well. During his tenure he has helped a lot of farmers get back in touch with nature and rediscover why they farm.

Koenig’s journey in conservation started in Madagascar where he grew up, where he says he basically lived outside.

Once he came to the United States it made sense to stick to something he already felt a strong connection to.

Koenig has been in his current position with Sauk County since graduating college and has stayed because it was such a good fit for him.

He was somewhat interested in rotational grazing early in his career, but it wasn’t his only focus. During his time monitoring streams, he realized their current practices weren’t making a big difference and there needed to be a way to improve the health of our soils.

Serge Koenig walking with grazier Roman MIller. Photo by Finn Ryan

After looking through the data, “It was pretty obvious that permanent vegetation was one of the main answers,” he said. “When you look at all the soil health principles, well managed grazing checks all of them and then some.”

Koenig has since spent time working on Wisconsin farms and has become impressed with how profitable well managed grazing is for farmers. In a new video, produced by Grassland 2.0’s Jacob Grace, Koenig discusses how he makes the financial case for grazing with the landowners he works with.

Serge presenting at the pasture walk held in conjunction with the 2021 Fermentation Fest: Grassland Edition. Photo by Finn Ryan

Since holding their first pasture walk about five years ago, with maybe 10 or so people showing up, their numbers have increased to close to 50.

Koenig believes there is a growing interest in managed grazing due to many Wisconsin farmers seeking alternatives after dealing with economic hardship, not just for the conservation benefits.

He said the job isn’t really about conservation, it is working through the people stuff and guiding them through it.

It’s about environmental protection, but also the sustainability of people.

Making sure that “Our people that manage our landscape are happy and viable and at peace with what they’re doing,” he said. “And feel like they’re part of the solution.”

Find out more about Serge and his work in this recently published article on WPR’s Wisconsin Life. We also have two other videos on Serge, his grazing journey, and how he has created a grazing movement in Sauk County on the Grassland 2.0 YouTube channel.

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