Daily Reporter Staff
It's lucky for naturalists that a "gadget freak" is located in northwest Iowa, the heart of tallgrass prairie country.
Dewey Stouffer, founder of the Little Sioux Prairie Company, is the self-proclaimed gadget freak. The aptly-named Dew Drop Drill he designed is one of his latest gadgets.
When Stouffer began planting native grasses and wildflowers in his Fostoria backyard, the only way to achieve the end result he desired was to broadcast the seed by hand. The process and its results, he recalled, were mixed at best.
So Stouffer jumped at the opportunity to build a small native grass drill for roadside management projects when asked to do so in the early 2000s by Clint Fraley, the former Clay County Conservation Board director.
"They had built a wooden mockup of what he was envisioning, but he went around to different manufacturers and couldn't find anybody interested in doing it," he recalled of Fraley's request.
Soon after Stouffer agreed to take on the project, Fraley informed him that the Iowa Lakes Resource, Conservation and Development Council had been awarded a grant to assist in the building of a prototype.
Stouffer's hybrid drill/planter version is not a true drill or drop seeder. Instead, the Dew Drop Drill features a unique seed delivery system capable of handling a large variety of seeds. Its size allows it to be utilized in small or remote areas, ditches and roadways, as well as for wildlife food plots and for prairie restorations and CRP plantings. The drill's inventor appreciates that it produces better habitat because it delivers more cover and, in the end, helps with weed management.
With the drill frames and subproducts manufactured elsewhere, Stouffer assembles them locally today. Gary Gilmore, his friend and owner of The Chrome Horse in Spencer, allows him to use the shop area in his business.
While approximately 10 and 15 machines are produced a year, they're currently located across the United States in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Oregon and California.
The first one sold was delivered to the Clay County Conservation Board. The local Pheasants Forever chapter wasn't far behind with its purchase, which is used to plant food plots around the county and as a rental for interested individuals.
Furthermore, conservation and park boards, soil and water conservation districts, ranchers, national parks representatives, reclamation technicians and homeowners wanting to establish native grasses for landscaping around their properties are among the users of Stouffer's drill. Federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have joined organizations like Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Quality Deer Management Association to also utilize the ATV-sized Dew Drop Drill for projects.
Stouffer explained marketing of the implement has occurred largely by word of mouth. His Web site, www.dewdropdrill.com, and trade shows also help.
Along with Stouffer, who works on each of the units assembled, the family-owned and -operated business includes his wife, Kate, their son, Travis, their daughter, Cara, her husband, Aaron Rutter, and friend Jim Stanzel.