Many farmers claim to live and breathe the conservation ethic, but Mark and Phyllis Legan literally do just that. Their home in west central Indiana, near the town of Coatesville, sits in an oasis featuring a pond, a constructed wetland area, thousands of trees and abundant wildlife.

It wasn’t always this way. “The 10 acres that our home sits on was in sow lots for 50 or 60 years before we moved here, and the hogs had rooted up most of the vegetation,” Phyllis explains. “It was a goal of ours to change that and make it into a home site, as well as a place where wildlife would feel comfortable.”

The Legans started by building the pond, and soon added a constructed wetland above the pond to allow native grasses and plants to filter the water and allow any sediment to settle into this shallow structure. “It also provides a great place for wildlife,” Phyllis adds. “We have some duck boxes out there, and we have planted thousands of trees, including plum, walnut and hickory, that help provide habitat.”

As the sun sets over this wetland wonder, the fading light sets off a magnificent range of hues that are reflected from the water’s surface. It’s easy to forget that this oasis is just a stone’s throw from their modern, 3,000-sow hog operation, and is surrounded by nearly 1,000 acres of cropland that the Legans operate—and it’s proof that a conservation mindset and commercial agriculture can co-exist.

Barry Fisher, the Indiana state soil health specialist for USDA/NRCS, says Legan Livestock & Grain demonstrates the integration of livestock and conservation cropping systems for environmental stewardship and water quality. “The Legan family farm is a showcase of conservation practices,” he says. “They use no-till, cover crops, grassed waterways, filter strips and have a comprehensive nutrient management plan for their livestock operation.”