Couple boosts wildlife habitat along Cedar River
Mower SWCD gives annual award to Troms of Udolpho Township
AUSTIN, Minn. — Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 — About a dozen wild turkeys made their way through former cropland this summer along the Cedar River while Ken Trom walked a portion of his newly seeded conservation land.
After renting land to area farmers for more than 50 years, Trom was seeing the green of oats and more than two dozen other plant species starting to sprout from the earth. Last year, Trom and his wife, Gloria, enrolled the last 96 acres of their cropland in Udolpho Township into the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to convert it back into prairie earlier this summer, providing a large area of new habitat for numerous types of animals, birds and insects.
“I always had a vision for this land,” said Trom, who bought it in 1961 as part of 120 acres overall and saw the benefits of prairie a few decades ago when about 60 acres was enrolled for a time in a state conservation program.
For their history of conservation efforts, the Troms are being honored as the 2018 Outstanding Wildlife Conservationist for Mower County as given annually by Mower Soil & Water Conservation District’s Board of Supervisors. The award was given Tuesday night at the Mower County Fair’s opening event.
Located northeast of the village of Lansing, the Troms’ property consists of 152 acres overall, including former crop and pasture land; their home property; and about 45 acres of woods along the Cedar River that attracts lots of wildlife.
“We see deer every day,” Trom said, with a laugh.
Ken Trom grew up on a farm in Dodge County in the upper end of the Cedar River Watershed before going into agricultural banking in which he worked for 42 years.
In the early 1960s, Trom was keeping office hours each week in Blooming Prairie, Austin and Grand Meadow. That made him seek a more centralized location for a home, which led him to where he and Gloria live today.
Upon purchasing the initial 120 acres, Trom planted five rows of trees on about 3 acres of uphill farmland once a conservation contract for that land ran out. That area now boasts a thick strip of mature trees and bushes, including white pines towering more than 100 feet tall.
While he intended to farm his land, Trom said he always rented it to farmers. He was busy with agri-banking and, in 1967, the Troms also started a landscaping and tree nursery business at their home that ran until 2001. That business, he said, established many windbreaks in rural areas in Mower, Freeborn, Dodge, Steele and Mitchell (Iowa) counties.
In the mid-1990s, the Troms planted prairie grasses on a former pasture outside their home. That section now attracts numerous monarch butterflies and other species. They also have about a dozen bluebird houses scattered on their property; the Troms counted about 35 baby bluebirds last year.
Trom worked several years ago with the Cedar River Watershed District to construct two stormwater-water retention ponds built along the Cedar River to stabilize deep ravines and treat runoff water. A long-time member of the Austin chapter of the Izaak Walton League, Trom also has advocated at the state Legislature for agricultural conservation.