ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) has named the finalists for the state’s 2021 Outstanding Conservationist Award.
The winner will be announced at the 85th annual MASWCD Annual Meeting, at a luncheon on Dec. 14. The award ceremony is the culminating event of the three-day conference, Dec. 12-14, at the Doubletree by Hilton Bloomington – Minneapolis South in Bloomington, Minn. The award program recognizes farm families, individuals, conservation organizations, and other groups for their accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota’s natural resources.
The program is sponsored by MASWCD, with support from The Farmer magazine. Editors and news directors are encouraged to follow up with the Soil and Water Conservation District contacts listed for feature and interview opportunities. The information was gathered from nomination forms submitted to MASWCD by individual conservation districts. The finalists are noted below, with additional background information attached. Higher resolution photos are available upon request.
|MASWCD Area||Finalist||Nominating SWCD||SWCD Contact|
|Northwest Area 1||Ryan Hough and Michael Hough Rothsay MN||Wilkin SWCD||Don Bajumpaa, Manager 218-643-2933 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|West Central Area 2||Nathan and Angie Walter Westport MN||Pope SWCD||Holly Kovarik, Manager 320-634-5327 email@example.com|
|Northeast Area 3||Burnell Peterson and Ann Carlander Wrenshall MN||Carlton SWCD||Brad Matlack, Manager 218-384-3891 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Metro Area 4||Mallery Jerseys, Inc. Shafer MN||Chisago SWCD||Craig Mell, Administrator 651-674-2333 email@example.com|
|Southwest Area 5||Michael and Mary Hewitt Walnut Grove MN||Redwood SWCD||Scott Wold, Administrator 507-637-2427 x3|
|South Central Area 6||KD2 Farms Karson Duncanson Kameron Duncanson Mapleton MN||Blue Earth SWCD||Jerad Bach, Manager 507-345-4744 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Southeast Area 7||Tom and Shirley Gerard Jeff Gerard Judy Tollefsrud Spring Grove MN||Root River SWCD||Dave Walter, Manager 507-724-5261 email@example.com|
|North Central Area 8||Hollister Family Farm Abe and Brea Hollister Brainerd MN||Crow Wing SWCD||Melissa Barrick, Manager 218-828-6197 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Northwest Area 1 Ryan Hough and Michael Hough Rothsay MN nominated by Wilkin SWCD Background on brothers Ryan Hough and Michael Hough: Brothers Ryan Hough & Michael Hough of Rothsay, MN, farm 1400 acres of row crops and run a 600 head cattle operation in the northeast corner of Wilkin County. They have a diverse crop rotation of corn, soybeans, sunflowers, wheat, barley, and alfalfa. They started integrating full season cover crops into the no-till operation to get the benefit of grazing the cover crop after the cash crop was harvested. This allows the Hough Brothers to extend the grazing period beyond the fall frost. They have also switched from conventional grazing to rotational grazing their pastures. The Hough Brothers have utilized the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) programs, along with grazing Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve (RIM) easements, and are currently in the process of getting their Ag Water Quality Certification.|
|West Central Area 2 Nathan and Angie Walter Westport MN nominated by Pope SWCD Background on the Walters: Nathan and Angie Walter of Westport, Minnesota, operate a 390-acre Organic Minnesota Department of Agriculture Ag Water Quality Certified family dairy farm raising corn, hay, rye, barley, oats, and cover crops for use on their farm. They milk 100 Guernsey/Red Holstein/Norwegian Cross Cows, raise 50 heifers, 20 calves, broiler chickens, and laying hens. They have implemented: an ag waste storage facility, nutrient management plan, shelterbelt, cover crops, grazing plan, reduced tillage, cover crops, no-till, and soil health practices. The Walters are active members in their community, Sustainable Farming Association (SFA), Organic Valley, 4-H and serve in leadership roles in these organizations. They are mentors for the SFA Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program. The Walter’s are a premier example of regenerative agriculture and the Pope SWCD is proud to nominate them.|
|Northeast Area 3 Burnell Peterson and Ann Carlander Wrenshall MN nominated by Carlton SWCD Background on Burnell Peterson and Ann Carlander: Burnell Peterson and Ann Carlander operate a Bed and Breakfast on their land near Wrenshall. Burnell has worked with the SWCD for decades to improve forest health and pollinator habitat. Recently, in cooperation with the SWCD, Burnell has thinned out his forest to give the remaining trees room to thrive. He mills the logs into lumber himself. Burnell and Ann worked with the district to establish a native grass and flower meadow for pollinator habitat. They are already noticing more bee and butterfly activity. Burnell and Ann enjoy caring for their land and sharing it with others.|
|Metro Area 4 Mallery Jerseys, Inc. Shafer MN nominated by Chisago SWCD Background on Mallery Jerseys, Inc: The Mallery family are owners and operators of Mallery Jerseys, Inc. They operate a 485-acre dairy farm milking on average 250 head, as well as producing corn for silage and grain along with hay to feed their dairy cattle. The Mallerys started farming in Shafer, MN, along the escarpment of the St. Croix River, in the 1950s. Due to their unique position and close vicinity to a National Scenic Riverway, the Mallerys have always seen conservation as important to their operation. They have implemented a wide range of practices, including cover crops, buffers, diversions, water and sediment control basins, no till, nutrient management, and integrated pest management. In 2020, Mallery Jerseys, Inc. achieved certification in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Conservation Program.|
|Southwest Area 5 Michael and Mary Hewitt Walnut Grove, MN nominated by Redwood SWCD Background on the Hewitts: Michael & Mary Hewitt of Walnut Grove operate a large grain operation on the banks of Plum Creek raising corn, soybeans, and wheat. Mike grew up farming with his father raising crops and hogs and began farming full time in 1989. Mike has always been interested in trying new methods and built his own strip-till unit before the equipment was available. The Hewitt’s stumbled upon no-till when Mike and his father were helping a neighbor plant soybeans in a wet spring when tillage was not an option. Because of that experience, the Hewitt’s have stuck with no-till in their operation as well as strip-till and cover crops. The Hewitts have made strides implementing conservation and are leaders in farmer-to-farmer networking.|
|South Central Area 6 KD2 Farms Karson Duncanson and Kameron Duncanson Mapleton, MN nominated by Blue Earth SWCD Background on KD2 Farms: KD2 Farms, of Mapleton are fourth generation farmers. When Karson and Kameron Duncanson took over the family farm five years ago, they continued their father’s conservation efforts by planting over 1,000 acres of cover crops, switching to strip-till practices on their corn fields and moving their bean fields to 100 percent no-till. Before Minnesota’s Buffer Law was written into law, KD2 Farms had enrolled 20 acres of their land into the Conservation Reserve Program for filter strips and grassed waterways, making them compliant before most. They know using some of these best management practices can be difficult to transition to, but once you make the move, you’ll be glad you did. They want to provide a good example to future generations on how to farm properly and how to be good stewards of the land.|
|Southeast Area 7 Tom and Shirley Gerard, Jeff Gerard, Judy Tollefsrud Spring Grove MN nominated by Root River SWCD Background on the Gerard Family: The Gerard Family of Spring Grove operate a diversified crop and livestock operation with corn, soybeans, cereal grains and hay along with cover crops. In addition, they custom feed 300-400 heifers from calves to freshening for a local dairy. The original farm has been in the family since the early sixties and consists of a mix of forestland, rotational pasture, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and crop land. Over the years, the Gerards have implemented several grade stabilization structures, feedlot improvements, contour strips, CRP, and a couple miles of waterway in addition to constructing numerous other best management practices to address the resource concerns on their farm. The Gerards have been diligent advocates for conservation and have implemented many practices over the years because it’s “the way it should be done”|
|North Central Area 8 Hollister Family Farm – Abe and Brea Hollister Brainerd MN nominated by Crow Wing SWCD Background on Hollister Family Farm: The Hollister Family Farm is located south of Brainerd near the Nokassippi River (a 46.5-mile-long tributary to the Mississippi River). The Hollisters have transformed an 80-year-old highly intensive soybeans and corn farmland into perennial vegetation with 40 paddocks for cattle and sheep to rotate through. These newly formed lush perennial grasses allow Galloway, British White, and Lowline Red Angus cows and sheep to eat healthy forage while providing nutritious, sustainable grown meat to their customers. They raise 60 cows on 120 acres to the direct consumer. The intense rotational management system has increased the farm soil organic matter and improved water percolation. The Hollisters partnered with the NRCS, SWCDs, and Happy Dancing Turtle to provide outreach help to individual farmers in the Pine River Watershed to implement soil health practices.|