Members of the Cedar River Watershed Partnership talk with local farmers about their farming needs on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, at the Hormel Foods’ sales cabin in Austin as part of an event put on by the company along with Mower Soil & Water Conservation District; Central Farm Service; Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN; Minnesota Department of Agriculture; and the Minnesota nonprofit Environmental Initiative — all members of the partnership.

Partnership helps farmers with farm health, water quality in region

Producers in Cedar River Watershed learn how collaborative public-private effort can help their farm, environment

Austin, Minn. — Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 — Farmers throughout the Cedar River watershed in Minnesota came out Wednesday to learn about how a partnership can help achieve long-term economic and environmental health of their farms through sustainable farming practices accessed through the public-private collaborations like the Cedar River Watershed Partnership.

Launched last year, the Cedar River Watershed Partnership 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 and address water quality challenges in the Cedar River Watershed.

Mower SWCD district manager Justin Hanson speaks during a panel discussion.

Hosted at the Hormel Foods Sales Cabin, the event Partnering for Profitability: Connecting the full set of farm services for your bottom line, walked farmers through practical farming strategies, reported back the farmer and community impacts in the first year of the partnership and demonstrate what sustainability means to Minnesota’s farm community.

In the first year of the collaborative effort, the partnership worked with farmers in the Cedar River Watershed to identify practices and resources for improving farm health and water quality throughout the region.

Project partners have worked with dozens of farmers over the past year, with the hope of increasing the number of participants in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s program in 2019.

“We’re thrilled to be involved in the Cedar River Watershed Partnership and appreciate the time and dedication shown by the project partners to make this effort a success,” said Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O’ Lakes Sustain. “This collaboration continues to achieve impressive results, positioning Minnesota agriculture for enhanced sustainability and helping to maintain a resilient agricultural system in the Cedar River watershed.”

Partners work with farmers to identify the most impactful and practical farming strategies and provide them with the tools and resources to help implement changes with the goal of reaching certification through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. This effort minimizes red-tape for farmers by coordinating guidance, services, and resources amongst partners so that, no matter who the farmer contacts, they can get the support they need.

Some of those changes may include grid sampling / soil sampling, no-till / strip-till, cover crops or variable rate technology (VRT).

“We talk with farmers every day about their operation and business,” said Justin Hanson, Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District’s district manager said. “Through this partnership, we are improving the service that local government and ag retailers provide to our customers.”

In order to meet the demand of this program, the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District is adding a position dedicated to working with farmers to identify resources available.

Communities in the Cedar River Watershed, an area of roughly a half-million acres, increasingly face water resource issues like flooding and sedimentation, leading to property damage and unsafe drinking and recreational water. Fortunately, the adoption of improved farming strategies on agricultural land is a powerful tool to achieve water quality improvements.

Jason Louks, who farms in the Cedar River watershed between Blooming Prairie and Hayfield, explains how he has worked with the Cedar River Watershed Partnership to help his farm and the environment.

Convened and managed by Minnesota nonprofit Environmental Initiative, the Cedar River Watershed Partnership is a collaboration of Central Farm Service, Hormel Foods, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN™, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District.

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.

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