Fort Riley, Kansas



Agriculture Program cultivates community ties

By Jessica Healey | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | July 22, 2014

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 Division, DPW.

“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.” 

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