Mower SWCD adding new precision ag position
Part-time role to help expand private-public partnership
AUSTIN, Minn. — Friday, Aug. 2, 2019 — As part of the Cedar River Watershed Partnership’s continuing growth, a new position is being added in Austin mainly to provide area landowners technical support for sustainable agriculture.
Mower Soil & Water Conservation District is seeking applicants for a part-time precision ag associate to work in the Cedar and Root River watersheds of Mower County and neighboring counties. Launched in early 2018, the Cedar River Watershed Partnership (CRWP) is expanding its focus area now into the Root River watershed, which starts in eastern Mower County.
In addition to supporting farmers and ag landowners, the associate will work with public and private-sector partners to boost development and implementation of sustainable agriculture, which aims to improve farming operations through practices that benefit the environment, such as cover crops, reduced tillage and less fertilizer usage.
A precision ag associate will support Mower SWCD’s current projects but also work closely with private businesses involved with CRWP, including Land O’ Lakes SUSTAIN, Hormel Foods Corp. and Central Farm Service (CFS), said Justin Hanson, district manager for Mower SWCD. Other CRWP members include the Minneapolis nonprofit Environmental Initiative, Mower SWCD and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
“With this position, we want to find new, innovative ways of getting conservation on the ground,” Hanson said. “It’s a continuation of evolving Mower SWCD’s service model to work alongside private ag partners hopefully leading to better communication with landowners about the latest ag and sustainability data.”
Some of the position’s technical assistance will involve supporting demonstration farm field plots; promoting conservation programs and initiatives; facilitating educational workshops; and instigating new program opportunities that add value to the collaborative CRWP partnership.
This position — applications due by Aug. 16 — is funded by a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a federal nonprofit supporting projects that restore, sustain and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. NFWF supports the initiative, Hanson said, because it believes it will lead to more conservation practices and better land management.
The precision ag associate will serve as a point of contact to support to CRWP’s public-private interests as well as work to continue to grow the partnership and help it reach goals.
CRWP is Minnesota’s first public-private-nonprofit partnership that provides farmers with tools and resources to help them adopt new farm management strategies to improve the soil, water, and economic health of their farms. It also addresses water-quality challenges in the Cedar River watershed and now the Root River watershed.
Partners in CRWP have worked with dozens of farmers in the Cedar River Watershed to identify practices and resources for improving farm health and water quality throughout the region. They work with farmers to identify the most impactful, practical farming strategies and provide them with tools and resources to help implement changes.
Overall, CRWP’s goal is to get farmers to reach certification through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program run by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. This effort minimizes red-tape for farmers by coordinating guidance, services and resources amongst partners.
Applicants must have, among various requirements, a background in agriculture; ag business; soils with an interest in natural resources and conservation; and precision agriculture. The applicant also must be able to manage on-farm trials using precision ag and have at least a two-year degree or experience in agronomy and soils, biology, environmental science or an equivalent experience with ag and natural resources.
Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. Aug. 16 and available online at www.mowerswcd.org. They can dropped off or mailed to Mower SWCD at 1408 21st Ave. N.W., Austin, MN, 55912. Applications also can be emailed: firstname.lastname@example.org
In fall 2018, Mower SWCD added another employee by hiring Paul Hunter for a new watershed conservationist position to do field walkovers with farmers and ag landowners in the Cedar and Root watersheds to create an in-depth evaluation of their land. This is a new focus for Mower SWCD as it traditionally had to rely on farmers coming in with land issues.