Michelle & Gary Angell (pictured in the front right) joined dozens of other conservation-minded farmers and rural landowners in December 2023 at the annual conference of the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) in Bloomington. Shown left to right are Mower SWCD’s Jessica Bulman, Jeanne Crump and Paul Hunter; Michelle Angell; Mower SWCD manager Cody Fox; Gary Angell; and Mower SWCD board chairman Randy Smith.

Angells honored for conservation

Elkton-area farming couple recognized; Maxfields also earn state wildlife habitat award

4 min readJan 12, 2024


Jan. 12, 2024 — From research to reduced tillage to partnering on conservation projects, Gary and Michelle Angell have worked in many ways to protect their farmland’s soil and the water quality of area streams.

In the 1980s, the Angells, who live near Elkton, started using ridge-till — a practice for minimal soil disturbance — to cut production costs while maintaining yields and soil health. They also have built a dozen water-and-sediment control basins on their land along with about a dozen grassed waterways to reduce soil erosion from rainstorms and snowmelt.

They also have partnered with Mower Soil & Water Conservation District and University of Minnesota to support ongoing soil-health research projects that include studying their land’s soil health.

For all these efforts, Mower SWCD’s Board of Supervisors awarded the Angells as Mower County’s 2023 Outstanding Conservationists. In December, the Angells joined dozens of other conservation farmers and landowners in the Twin Cities for recognition at the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts’ 87th annual convention.

The Angells join Mower SWCD manager Cody Fox (on left) in August 2023 at the Mower County Fair’s opening ceremony as the Outstanding Conservationists of the Year, an honor awarded by the Mower Soil & Water Conservation District’s Board of Supervisors. (Photo by Rep. Patricia Mueller)

“Gary and Michelle Angell are great stewards of the land,” Mower SWCD manager Cody Fox said. “Their close attention to conservation has been intentional through many years, and we commend the Angells for that.”

Started in 1958 by Gary’s father Donald Angell, the Angells’ farm today operates 1,500 acres in central Mower County, raising corn, soybeans and hogs.

Gary builds ridges every other year in the fall and deep bands nutrient applications into his cropland. With ridge till, the Angells have seen improvements to the soil structure, less compaction, increased soil organic matter and higher counts of earthworms.

Conservation practices of ridge-till (minimal soil disturbance) and cover crops on the Angell farm.

The Angells also use variable-rate fertilizer and split application for their nutrient program to minimize nutrient loss and increase productivity.

Mower SWCD’s board also awarded Gus and Ann Maxfield as its 2023 Outstanding Wildlife Conservationists for their extensive efforts to create and support wildlife habitat along the Cedar River near the village of Lansing, north of Austin.

Attendees at the MASWCD’s annual awards luncheon in December 2023 learn about the Angells’ conservation efforts on their Mower County farm.

At the MASWCD annual conference in December, the Maxfields were honored with the 2023 MASWCD/Pheasants Forever Wildlife Habitat Steward Award after being nominated by Mower SWCD. This cosponsored award honors landowners who have implemented extensive wildlife habitat management practices that result in the highest quality habitat and promote biodiversity.

“This is a great award that honors landowners who consistently go above and beyond to maximize their land’s wildlife habitat value,” Fox said.

Ann and Gus Maxfield, of rural Lansing (Mower County), hold their MASWCD/Pheasants Forever Wildlife Habitat Steward Award next to Mower SWCD manager Cody Fox in December 2023 at the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) annual conference in Bloomington.

Maxfields’ efforts on their land has included planting many trees bought from Mower SWCD’s annual program and working with staff to convert 120 acres of cropland to permanent conservation prairie and wetlands through the state’s Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program. They also worked with Mower SWCD years ago on projects to plug ditches and conduct a complete wetland restoration along Mower County Road 2, east of Lansing.

They also release pheasants and contribute greatly to the annual fundraiser banquet by the Mower County Chapter of Pheasants Forever, which puts money back into wildlife-conservation efforts locally. Gus Maxfield also coaches the Austin youth trap-shooting team and hosts youth hunts for pheasant and waterfowl every year.

Gus and Ann Maxfield also own goats that are moved around to areas with heavy amounts of the invasive buckthorn plant, including at Austin’s Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

An aerial photo shows the permanent conservation, wetland restoration and wildlife habitat created by the Maxfields along the Cedar River, east of the village of Lansing. This project was done in coordination with Mower SWCD through the state’s Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) permanent-conservation program.



Formed in 2007, CRWD works to reduce flooding and improve water quality on the Cedar River State Water Trail and its tributaries in southern Minnesota.