Redwood County, Minn., farmer Bruce Tiffany was honored as the 2018 Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ Outstanding Conservationist Dec. 11 at the organization’s 82nd annual meeting in Bloomington, Minn.
Tiffany, along with his wife, Ann., operate a large grain operation on the banks of the Redwood River. They raise corn and soybeans near Redwood Falls.
Tiffany was nominated for the award by the Redwood Soil and Water Conservation District.
Upon accepting his award, Tiffany said several considerations always come to mind when he considers management changes on his farm.
“It’s my responsibility to know the implications of my activities so I have the least impact on the environment,” he said. “And when I’m going to make a decision on my farm, I ask myself, what makes sense today? And would the people before me and the people after me be proud of me [for making that decision]?”
Tiffany was one of eight selected MASWCD area finalists for the state Outstanding Conservationist Award. Nominations of farmers, landowners and others who have made investments in conservation came from a total of 61 county SWCDs this year. The MASWCD awards committee met last fall in St. Paul to select the eight area finalists and the state winner.
The Farmer magazine participates in the conservation awards selection and sponsorship.
MASWCD AREA 5 WINNER: Bruce and Ann Tiffany, Redwood Falls, Minn. (Redwood SWCD)
State conservation winner
Tiffany farms in MASWCD Area 5 and operates a large grain operation on the banks of the Redwood River, raising corn and soybeans. He started farming at age 11, when he rented his first 20 acres, and has been farming since. Over the years, he has dedicated 139 acres to filter strips and riparian areas along the Redwood River, and drainage ditches. On the river, he increased the required buffer width to the riparian areas to help further protect the river and its banks.
To reduce gully erosion, Tiffany worked with the county SWCD to construct seven farmable water and sediment control basins, one grade stabilization structure and a streambank stabilization project. In 2017, he added three more basins to complement existing structures.
Since the 1980s, Tiffany has been planting windbreaks and currently has more than 4,000 feet of field windbreaks.
Tiffany practices grid soil sampling and variable-rate nutrient application. He plants one-third of his fields with cover crops and follows integrated pest management practices.
He applies variable rates of phosphorus and potassium in the fall and variable-rate nitrogen in the spring. The spring application helps prevent N leaching through the soil profile. Tiffany has noticed benefits to this fertilizer strategy, since nutrients are placed where they are needed.
Tiffany has used a vertical tillage tool to practice reduced tillage on all cropland. In 2017, he bought a strip-tillage rig to experiment with adding a less aggressive tillage practice. In 2019, he plans to strip-till all his corn ground.
Also in 2017, Tiffany worked with the local SWCD staff to construct shoreline stabilization on a high bluff of the Redwood River. The Tiffanys have tried numerous practices, but the project has been difficult to complete due to recent 500-year storm events.
The farm received its certification as a water quality steward by passing the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program in 2016.
Here are the remaining seven MASWCD area outstanding conservationists.
MASWCD AREA 1 WINNER: Andy Dombeck, Wadena, Minn., (center), with (left) East Ottertail district manager Darren Newville and MAWQCP area certification specialist Jim Lahn. (East Ottertail SWCD)
MASWCD Area 1, Northwest: Andy Dombeck, Wadena
Nominated by East Ottertail SWCD
Andy Dombeck operates a 204-acre irrigated farm in eastern Otter Tail County, growing corn and soybeans — and in recent years, field peas and cereal rye. His farm was recently certified through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program.
He practices strip till for row crop operation and plants some no-till soybeans. He applies multiple split applications of nitrogen fertilizer, including strip till fertilizer at depths of 6 to 7 inches on his sandy loam-texture soils.
Dombeck also participates in the county SWCD’s irrigation scheduler program. He has worked with the SWCD to do nutrient trials the past three years, and he recently adopted the practice of planting cover crops.
MASWCD AREA 2 WINNER: Kevin Roers, Garfield, Minn. (Douglas SWCD)
MASWCD Area 2, West Central: Kevin and Ellen Roers, Garfield
Nominated by Douglas SWCD
Kevin and Ellen Roers operate a dairy, beef and grain operation. They grow corn, beans, small grain and alfalfa. In fall 2017, the Roerses installed four water and sediment control basins to curtail gully erosion. They plan to install more.
They improved pasture management by installing a prescribed grazing system on 101 acres of pasture, with seven paddocks watered by water wells and underground pipeline in six pasture locations. The Roerses also practice conservation tillage and plant cover crops.
MASWCD AREA 3 WINNER: Alan Finifrock, Cloquet, Minn. (Carlton SWCD)
MASWCD Area 3, Northeast: Alan and Sharon Finifrock, Cloquet
Nominated by Carlton SWCD
Alan and Sharon Finifrock have cared for their forest lands for decades by planting trees, creating wildlife habitat, growing timber and controlling buckthorn. They share their experience and knowledge with family and other landowners through forest management activities, and by leading and assisting with forestry field days and workshops. They also are the 2018 Minnesota Tree Farmers of the Year.
MASWCD AREA 4 WINNER: Lance Petersen, Rush City, Minn. (Chisago SWCD)
MASWCD Area 4, Metro: Petersen Farms, Rush City
Nominated by Chisago SWCD
In 2017, Petersen Farms became a Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certified farm. Lance Peterson has implemented strip till farming on all of his family’s cropland. He installs the strips in the spring, about 48 hours prior to planting. He takes grid soil samples on all fields once every three years, and conducts annual tissue tests to help refine plant nutrient needs. He applies fertilizer using variable-rate technology and split-applies through three applications during the growing season.
The family also has installed buffers along the entire 2 miles of the public ditch on their farm.
MASWCD AREA 6 WINNER: Gerald Lorenz, Sherburn, Minn. (Martin SWCD)
MASWCD Area 6, South Central: Gerald Lorenz, Sherburn
Nominated by Martin SWCD
Gerald Lorenz owns and manages 285 acres and advocates for local-source native prairie species. He has collected seed and propagated thousands of local ecotypic prairie vegetation. Lorenz requires his tenants to use no-till on hills and vulnerable soils, and he seeds cover crops himself. He is the first in his county to require soil health practices as part of his land rental agreement.
Lorenz keeps five beehives and has worked with local SWCD staff on various projects, including a recent tile water treatment project that involves pulling tile water to the surface with a windmill and treating the water with a series of wetlands.
MASWCD AREA 7 WINNER: Stephanie and Josh Dahl, Rushford, Minn., and their children. (Root River SWCD)
MASWCD Area 7, Southeast: Josh and Stephanie Dahl, Rushford
Nominated by Root River SWCD
Josh and Stephanie Dahl operate a 150-cow dairy and diversified crop operation, raising corn, cereal grains and hay. They own 420 tillable acres. In the past year, the Dahls have implemented numerous best management practices. These include installing several grade stabilization structures, thousands of feet of waterway and a liquid manure basin as part of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Root River Field to Stream Partnership.
MASWCD AREA 8 WINNER: John Forrest, Brainerd, Minn. (left), and members of the Brainerd Rotary Club — Dave Johnson, Peter Nelson, Dennis Doucette and John Luce. (Crow Wing SWCD)
MASWCD Area 8, North Central: John Forrest, Brainerd
Nominated by Crow Wing SWCD
John Forrest and the Brainerd Rotary Club partnered with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the city of Brainerd, private landowners and foundations to acquire 100 acres, 1,971 feet along the Mississippi River and 1,225 feet along the Little Buffalo Creek. Now, Rotary Riverside Park is 190 acres and has roughly 1 mile of Mississippi River frontage.
Over the past year, Forrest and Rotarians worked with the local SWCD to restore 11.25 acres to a native prairie seed bank for the community. This included buckthorn removal, a prescribed burn and planting 10,000 native plugs.
Each county SWCD winner received an award certificate presented by Paula Mohr, editor of The Farmer. Area finalists also received engraved award plaques, and the state winner received a framed, engraved conservation print.
For a list of all 2018 SWCD outstanding conservationist, visit the MASWCD award program webpage.