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Farmer-Led Conservation

Houston Engineering Project
Farmer-Led Conservation

Location:  Statewide, Minnesota
Client:  Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council


Minnesota’s farmers are facing increasing pressure to implement conservation practices to improve and protect waterways flowing through their land. Clean Water Fund (CWF) grants can support these farmers with implementing the proper practices on their land. However, there is a perception that farmers are often left out of discussions about which practices to implement. The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (MSR&PC) hired HEI to partner with five local governmental units (LGUs)—Rock County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Yellow Medicine SWCD, Lac qui Parle-Yellow Medicine Watershed District,  Sauk River Watershed District, and Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District—to support farmers with conservation implementation. 

HEI and the local governmental units (LGUs) gathered local farmers to create farmer-led councils to better understand what types of conservation fit the community best. Farmers are leading the way in implementing conservation to see real progress in their areas.

The Project

Minnesota farmers play a big role in water quality, and without farmer input, it can be difficult to implement the right practices on the right fields. During these workshops, farmers educate each other and discuss what conservation practices work well on their farms. HEI and other technical specialists support these discussions with informational presentations explaining what kind of practices are needed in their specific areas. For instance, Jared Trost from the USGS presented on how geology influences nitrates in groundwater during the Rock SWCD’s second workshop. This presentation led to a long discussion between the farmers and Jared on what kinds of practices would protect their wells, which are historically high in nitrates.

These councils are the beginning of what the MSR&PC hopes to be a surge in farmer-led conservation throughout Minnesota. They are also helping LGUs narrow down what type of grant programs to pursue for their area. The goal is to show how engaging farmers results in more effective conservation delivery, while maintaining productive agricultural lands. 

Client Benefits

  • Demonstrates the value provided by farmers to deliver effective conservation.
  • Workshops to educate and encourage farmers on implementing effective conservation practices on their land.
  • Supports and encourages farmers to use CWF funds to implement conservation.
  • HEI developed informational marketing videos in-house to help spread the word on the work being done.

Rock County

Lac qui Parle-Yellow Medicine Watershed District