Fort Riley consists of more
than 100,000 acres. Approximately onethird of these are leased out to members of
the local community to grow crops and hay.
The Agriculture Program is
run by the environmental division, Directorate of Public Works.
The program not only makes
use of land that would otherwise be left idle and brings benefit to local
farmers, but it also benefits Fort Riley in several ways.
“The program’s top priority
is to reduce fire potential and prevent fire from going off-post or coming on-post,”
said Jerold Spohn, agronomist and agricultural out lease manager, Environmental
“By removing the excess
grass if we get a fire in those locations, it’s not as intense, and our fire
department has a much better chance of responding. And with the perimeter crop
field it prevents most fires from going off the installation if they get that
close to edge,” Spohn added.
The farming also helps
prevent noxious weed growth and the spread of other invasive species.
“The program is in place
not only to help the locals out, it’s in place to support the military
mission,” Spohn said. “It’s also the right thing to do. We want to have this
land here not only for our Soldiers but for our wildlife.”
The program brings in
approximately $135,000 per year and currently has 22 land leases for hay and
nine land leases for crops.
“It does benefit the local community
because most of the lessees live nearby. Most of them actually live within
three to five miles,” Spohn said. “Probably 50 percent of the hay that is
harvested is used locally. The farmers use it themselves or sell it to local
persons. The other 50 percent is typically sent out. Sometimes it goes as far
as Texas, like now, during a drought. So it is has pretty wide influence.”
Farmers who lease land at Fort
Riley also enjoy a five-year lease period, whereas offpost land leases are
renewed each year.
“Several of the lessees
either work here or have family members that work on post. It also lets outside
folks know that we’re just not a closed post that’s here just for military
training,” Spohn said. “We do have other activities that go on, and I think the
Agriculture Program really strengthens our relationship with our neighbors.”