Farmers, landowners and others who have made investments in conservation and worked with their county soil and water staffs will be recognized at the annual Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ awards luncheon Dec. 11.
Nominees from 61 county SWCDs will be honored, as well as eight selected area finalists and a state Outstanding Conservationist award winner. The MASWCD awards committee met Oct. 26 in St. Paul to select the eight area finalists and the state winner.
The Farmer magazine participates in the conservation awards selection and sponsorship.
The eight MASWCD area Outstanding Conservationists are:
MASWCD Area 1, Northwest
Andy Dombeck, Wadena, nominated by East Ottertail SWCD
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, West Central
Kevin and Ellen Roers, Garfield, nominated by Douglas SWCD
The Roerses operate a dairy, beef and grain operation. They grow corn, beans, small grains 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-well and underground pipeline in six pasture locations. The Roerses also practice conservation tillage and plant cover crops.
MASWCD Area 3, Northeast
Alan and Sharon Finifrock, Cloquet, nominated by Carlton SWCD
The Finifrocks have cared for their forestlands 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, Metro
Petersen Farms, Rush City, nominated by Chisago SWCD
In 2017, Petersen Farms became a Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certified farm. Lance Peterson 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 5, Southwest
Bruce and Ann Tiffany, Redwood Falls, nominated by Redwoods SWCD
The Tiffanys operate a large grain operation on the banks of the Redwood River, raising corn and soybeans. Bruce started farming at age 11, when he rented his first 20 acres, and he has been farming ever since. Over the years, the Tiffanys have maintained and extended the riparian areas and buffers along the Redwood River; constructed nine erosion control structures; and planted more than 4,000 feet of field windbreaks. They practice grid soil sampling and variable rate nutrient application; plant one-third of their fields with cover crops; and follow integrated pest management practices.
Next year, they plan to strip-till all their corn ground.
MASWCD Area 6, South Central
Gerald Lorenz, Sherburn, nominated by Martin SWCD
Lorenz owns and manages 285 acres and advocates for local source native prairie species. He has collected seed and propagated thousands of acres of local eco-type prairie vegetation. Lorenz requires his tenants to use no-till on hills and vulnerable soils, and 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. He 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, Southeast
Josh and Stephanie Dahl, Rushford, nominated by Root River SWCD
The Dahls 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. The BMPs 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, North Central
John Forrest, Brainerd, nominated by Crow Wing SWCD
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 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 Brainerd 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.
The MASWCD annual meeting will be held Dec. 9-11 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Bloomington.
Each county SWCD winner receives an award certificate, presented by The Farmer. Area finalists also receive engraved award plaques. The state winner, who is announced at the luncheon, receives a framed, engraved print.
For more information, visit the MASWCD convention webpage.