Tapp family honored for conservation
Mower SWCD gives annual award to Brownsdale-area farmers
AUSTIN, Minn. — Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 — From streams to farm fields, Gene and Bridget Tapp have applied conservation practices over the years to help keep soil and streambanks from washing away during heavy rainfall.
With about 1,000 acres farmed for corn and soybeans in the Brownsdale area, the Tapps have worked with Mower Soil & Water Conservation District to install grass waterways in fields; build earthen embankments to control stormwater; enroll about 4. 5 acres into the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); and stabilize streambanks on the North Branch of Dobbins Creek, a Cedar River tributary prone to flash floods.
Tapps also are among a small number of area farmers practicing no-till soybeans, said Cody Fox, Mower SWCD project manager. No till — not digging up the soil — provides benefits to a farm operation along with improving water quality and soil health.
“The Tapps are a great family,” Fox said. “We have worked a lot with Gene on installing various conservation practices in recent years. He’s a conscientious farmer who cares about soil erosion and keeps an open mind to our ideas.”
On Tuesday, Mower SWCD honored Gene and Bridget Tapp as its 2019 Conservationists of the Year during the Mower County Fair’s opening ceremony. Mower SWCD’s Board of Supervisors choose each year’s award recipient.
The Tapps will be honored with other SWCD honorees in December at the 83rd annual convention of the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD). Annually, SWCDs in Minnesota nominate farmers, individuals, conservation organizations and other groups for implementing conservation practices and improving the natural resources.
Also Tuesday, Mower SWCD honored the Garbisch Family as its 2019 Wildlife Conservationist of the Year for its efforts west of Brownsdale along Roberts Creek to enroll nearly 155 acres of cropland into permanent conservation easements for native prairie and wetlands. The award honors Steve and Sharon Garbisch, who own the land, and Steve’s siblings David, Eileen and Ruth.
Gene & Bridget Tapp
Growing his 41st crop this year, Gene Tapp, a third-generation farmer, grew up farming with his father, Gaylord, and late grandfather, Harvey, who started the family farm in the early 1940s growing crops and raising hogs and dairy cattle.
At age 21, Gene started farming for a living when he rented land from his uncle Wayne Tapp and later bought those acres. The family ended dairy production in the 1970s; Gene stopped producing hogs in 1996.
Today, Gene & Bridget Tapp, who have grown the family farm’s acreage over time, own 540 acres in Red Rock and Dexter townships. They rent about 460 acres in Sargeant and Waltham townships in northern Mower County. Their son, Branden, is a fourth-generation farmer who also operates in the area.
Aside from no-till farming for soybeans for about seven years, the Tapps have implemented an array of projects to preserve the land’s long-term productivity and protect Dobbins Creek’s water quality, Fox said. That has included working with Mower SWCD to build grass waterways that help the Tapps farm on sloping land, reduce gully erosion in fields and improve water quality by trapping sediment on upland areas.
These conservation practices have worked well for the farm, Gene Tapp said.
“We were getting such deep washouts,” he said. “Our land was eroding away to the creek so we needed to do something.”
In the past year, the Tapps also worked with Mower SWCD and Cedar River Watershed District to use their land for restoring streambanks to stabilize and protect Dobbins Creek’s north branch as it flows through their farm. Numerous practices, including creating rock riffles and drilling woody vegetation into erosive streambanks, were installed along the creek.
Studies have shown that 40 to 60 percent of the dirt in local streams come from in-stream sources, such as eroded banks.
Thanks to the Tapps’ help, the multi-phase project also connected the creek with the floodplain, providing more buffer opportunity in Dobbins, Fox said, adding that the land is being restored with native grasses and flowers.
Garbisch Family — Outstanding Wildlife Conservationists
The Garbisch Family — including Steve Garbisch, his wife Sharon and his siblings David, Eileen and Ruth — has contributed to enhancing Mower County’s wildlife habitat by enrolling cropland twice into permanent conservation in Red Rock Township.
Since 1934, the Garbisch Family has had 160 acres along Roberts Creek, a Cedar River tributary, starting with their late parents, Gilbert and Helen Garbisch, who farmed the land split equally by Mower County Road 16.
Steve and Sharon Garbisch, who bought Steve’s siblings’ remaining shares on the family land in 2018, were honored in March by Mower SWCD for being the first in Mower County to get finalized for MN CREP, a program that permanently restores cropland into conservation acres with native plantings.
Steve now is working with SWCD to restore the farm’s remaining 75 acres through MN CREP that will include planting a highly diverse mixture of native grasses and forbs that are beneficial to wildlife and pollinator habitat.
A decade ago, Steve Garbisch also enrolled most of his eastern, 80-acre parcel into permanent conservation in a previous CREP.
“On my existing CREP land, it’s fun to walk out in the 5-foot-tall grass and flush a pheasant or have a deer get up in front of you,” he said. “We have a lot of wild turkeys and deer, and our pheasant population has started to come back.”
With the family’s 75 conservation acres, about 615 acres in a 2-square-mile area — nearly half the land — are in conservation programs or part of Roberts Creek’s woods and floodplains. That supports many geese, ducks and sandhill cranes that return yearly.
Steve and Sharon also are happy that all the CREP acres on their land will be there for many years to come for the enjoyment of their son, Chris, and his family — wife Stephanie and daughter Emerson — who live in the area and love the outdoors.