The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and The Farmer magazine helped recognize dozens of landowners on Tuesday at MASWCD's 74th annual convention in St. Paul.
Here are some of the district winners:
Carlton SWCD: Charles and Nancy Pace, Moose Lake. They worked with the district and the NRCS to repair a 1960s dam that formed a 43-acre pond and marsh. This high value wetland habitat hosts many species of wildlife, providing excellent food, cover and nesting habitat. Without their efforts, this resource would have been lost. The Paces manage the rest of their woodland and meadows for wildlife habitat as well.
Cottonwood District: Steve and Judy Harder, Mountain Lake. They operate "Jubilee Fruits and Vegetables," a community supported agriculture farm consisting of 20 acres. The goal of Jubilee is to promote a healthy community by making fresh produce available at the local level. With the help of a Department of Agriculture grant to study the use of season extenders for Lao and Latino vegetables, the Harder's built a high tunnel greenhouse. the structure is built on tracks and can be moved to one of five different stations.
Douglas District: The Douglas County Lakes Association. The DCLA has been instrumental in leading education efforts of local citizens to prevent the spread of zebra mussels, which recently discovered in the Alexandria Chain of Lakes. The DCLA printed placemats and table tents and distributed them to all restaurants and bars in Douglas County. The association also is active in other education activities throughout Douglas County including a booth at "Awake the Lakes," "Habitat Day," "Douglas County Day of the Lakes" and "Kids Fishing Day."
Fillmore SWCD: Bill and Steve Bailey, Chatfield. The Bailey families zone-till 800 acres of corn and no-till 250 acres of beans in a rotation with 300 acres of hay. They have 250 head of beef cows and calves pastured on 258 acres, which they rotate based on geographical size and stocking rate. Bill's training in forestry helps them manage almost 300 acres of woodland profitably and sustainably. They have a DNR-approved Forest Stewardship Plan and are in the Tree Farm Program sponsored by the American Forest Foundation. Along with contour strips, CRP buffers, dry ponds, and over five acres of waterways, the Baileys set an example as good stewards of the land.
Freeborn District: Bruce and Beth Andersland, Emmons. They operate a 1,600- acre cash/grain farm, growing primarily corn and soybeans in a 50-50 rotation. They also have a purebred Simmental beef cow herd. They purchased their home farm in 1978 and started farming on that land which had been in Bruce's family since 1923. This past spring they installed seven water and sediment control basins under an EQIP contract. They've also installed waterways, grade stabilization structures, windbreaks and have improved wetland habitat areas. They no-till all their soybean acreage and try to minimize tillage on bean stubble before corn planting.
Goodhue District: Delmar and Barbara Hinck and son Chris, Lake City. A Century Farm, Delmar's grandfather originally purchased the property in 1901. Delmar took over the small dairy from his father in 1970. They currently raise corn and soybeans in addition to custom no-till planting throughout the area. The Hincks have installed many conservation practices over the years including grade stabilization structures, waterways, contour farming and native grasses in the CREP program to help reduce erosion on the steeper slopes in the Wells Creek Watershed. The thriving trout population in the stream below the Hinck's house is a testament to the improvements in erosion control that have been implemented. Delmar's belief that "some ground is too steep to farm" is evident throughout the farm and that philosophy has been instilled in the next generation
Koochiching District: Former State Senator Bob Lessard. Bob is nominated for his lifetime achievements in the area of conservation and outdoor recreation. His persistence led to the passage of two constitutional amendments: the first guaranteeing Minnesotans' rights to fish, hunt and trap, and the second dedicating a portion of state sales tax revenue for conservation. The council that oversees this money — The Lessard/Sams Outdoor Heritage Council — was named in his honor. The 2009 Heritage Council identified 25 projects totaling $56 million dollars for funding. This included the Upper Mississippi Forest Project which is the largest conservation deal in Minnesota history and will see almost 188,000 acres of land remain open to public use for eternity.
Nicollet District: Mark, Matt and Neil Hagberg and families. They operate a corn and soybean farm consisting of 2,300 acres. Over the years, they have used conservation tillage, installed 400 feet of waterways, two water and sediment control structures, 6,800 feet of terraces, blind intakes and 10.8 acres of CRP.
Pipestone SWCD: Bob, Dave and Rod Schulz and their families, Holland. The Schulzes are long- time no-till crop farmers and also run a cow-calf and dairy operation. Dave and Rod have developed a passion for conservation which they inherited from their dad, Bob, and are passing on to their children. Over the years, they have installed two rotational grazing systems, as well as buffer strips, waterways, sediment basins, terraces, and restored wetlands on their land. Nutrient and pest management, and tree plantings for wildlife further enhance the level of conservation on their land. Currently, Rod is expanding his dairy operation from 125 to 350 head and is utilizing the State-Cost Share, Clean Water Legacy, and Environmental Quality Incentives Programs to install an ag waste system that's needed for the expansion.
Pope SWCD: Luverne and Mary Jo Forbord, Starbuck. Their 480 acres farm includes 315 acres of certified organic pasture which include portions of restored native prairie and an oak savannah. Fifty-four acres of their farm is planted in alternative crops. They raise low line Angus beef cattle which they market as grass fed beef to local and international markets. In 2008, the Jorran Forbord Memorial Orchard began. This project started as a field windbreak and has expanded to include berries, apricots and an apple tree research project that will develop organic, disease resistant, winter hardy apples. The Forbords work closely with Pope SWCD, NRCS, University of Minnesota Research facility, Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association, Rural Advantage and their community to promote sustainable agriculture in central Minnesota at their Prairie Horizon farm
North St. Louis County District: Roger Kochevar, Eveleth. Kochevar, a retired electrical engineer, is now a student at the University of Minnesota majoring in forestry. He owns 120 acres of timberland that includes the confluence of the St. Louis and Embarrass Rivers. Management activities follow a stewardship plan with goals of maintaining wildlife habitat and increasing tree diversity. He has planted over 4,000 nursery transplants including pine, spruce and various deciduous species. Habitat has been enhanced by planting fruit-bearing wildlife trees and clover. Establishing white pine has been a particularly high maintenance activity because of deer browse. Technical services provided by county, state and federal agencies have been beneficial resources.
Scott SWCD: Emery and Jim Schwingler, who farm 52 acres in St. Lawrence Township. They discovered grassed waterways really work after a four-inch rain fell in two hours this summer. They installed this grassed waterway, a diversion, water/sediment basin, grade stabilization structure, rock inlets, tree plantings and food plots. "Keeping our water clean, conserving resources, keeping soil from washing away – it's really about investing in the future," Jim said. "Whether you have many acres or a small piece of land, you can make a difference." To say they're pleased with their projects would be an understatement. Evidence of sound conservation practices is clear to them, driven home by their recent grassed waterway success story.
Wright District: Steve and Ramona Strolberg, Cokato. The Strolberg family farm has been around for over 100 years and conservation is a longstanding family tradition. Steve farms over 1,200 acres with 600 acres in no-till corn and beans. This past year, Steve developed a wetland bank of 150 acres for use in road replacement projects in the watershed. Ten wetland basins were restored on the site along with buffers of native prairie vegetation. Steve expanded his conservation interests into the biofuels industry last year by growing canola on his farm and pressing it into 1,500 gallons of biofuel that he uses on his farm. Steve gets higher efficiency with biofuels and plans to expand this part of his operation next year.