Farmer-led soil health education in Faribault County Minnesota

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Resource Concern:
Soil Health
Research and experience have both shown that upland conservation practices are capable of increasing water quality and soil health.  Even more of note, when used in the right place, right time, and with the right management, conservation practices can also be environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. However, the question of why we don’t see more of these sustainable conservation practices on the landscape still remains.  How can we increase adoption of sustainable conservation practices in order to see an increase in Minnesota’s water and soil quality?  The staff at Faribault County Soil & Water Conservation District may have discovered the key:  a farmer-led approach for education, outreach, and implementation.

Solution:
In response to landowner needs, the Faribault County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) has made it a priority to regularly host workshops, round table talks, and field days.  Recently, efforts have been made to focus these events on specific upland conservation practices: cover crops, strip-till, no-till, nutrient management, etc.

Faribault County SWCD Program Administrator Michele Stindtman notes, “Staff and supervisors have been taking more time and asking our individual landowners and groups what it is exactly that they are looking for: funding via incentives and cost-share or education opportunities.  Surprisingly, we are seeing more and more of these answers being focused on the need in obtaining more education.”  Landowner questions abound.  Who is a local source for cover crop seed? What is the latest date and lowest seeding rate for a cover crop established after late sweetcorn when the next year’s crop will be soybeans?  Is there a local farmer with experience with strip-till?  I have a piece of land that I don’t want to continue to farm; are there any other options?  The list goes on.  It has become clear that landowners are searching for information.

Benefit:
Interest in sustainable, upland conservation practices is growing from the ground up.  Farmers, landowners, local conservation offices, state agencies, and federal agencies are working to increase knowledge and adoption.  Whether that adoption comes from education and outreach efforts or from implementation grant funds, these practices can do their part to increase Minnesota’s water and soil quality.