Conservation Efforts

By Caroline van Schaik, Driftless Region coordinator

Scud fly patterns based on nature, a pilot project to protect soil and water, the launch of the Midwest Grazing Exchange, and a free Women in Sustainable Agriculture conference…right up there with three seasons of weather wrapped into four October weeks! 


Fall Stream Sampling For Real Now

Very small stream teams are doing their final monitoring sessions for the year, bringing out the nets and insulated gloves for macro invertebrate pulls before winter sets in. It’s been very beautiful, and fascinating as we come full circle to our first sets of data a year ago. Teams will have data entered by next month for a couple of comparisons.

In the meantime, an active pair of volunteers sent this note. It’s a real testimony to the myriad benefits of contributing eyes to our waters as citizen science stream monitors. We might assume it is to track contaminants or fish habitat conditions, and indeed, monitoring is that. And more!

The sampling has helped our fishing. I’ve reworked a scud fly pattern to better match the naturals, and it’s been successful. On Wednesday, Sheila tied on a San Juan worm fly that mimics the small red worms we’ve collected, and caught a 15” brown on upper Rush Creek.  

We also are adding data points to the national Clean Water Hub for use by scientists across the country aa they develop policy and interventions on behalf of clean water.  It’s worth remembering when cold hands and wet socks prevail, that these data inform and shape the practices that can better safe guard ours and all public waters, from farmland management to lawn care.

Regenerative ag at a pilot scale

Minnesota’s principle UMRI staff leaders have found some eager ears for a pilot project developed to transform large tracts of agricultural land into healthier soil and downstream water. UMRI director Dave Zentner and others hope that partners at the university, agency, and non-profit level will help funders see the merits of a farmer cohort working together on innovative practices in a contained region. For more information, contact Dave at

Midwest Grazing Exchange

The much-needed  Midwest Grazing Exchange just launched to integrate pasture-based livestock by connecting graziers and landowners in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Graziers can search for forage to graze and landowners can search for livestock to graze their land. The initiative is led by the Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group, a network of grazing educators with a mission to increase pasture and perennial forage production in the Upper Midwest, and to improve the environmental performance of farming systems while maintaining agricultural production and profitability. The working group is part of Green Lands Blue Waters a consortium that champions integrating perennial plants and continuous living cover in the agricultural landscape. UMRI’s Driftless coordinator is a long time member of both. 

Developers note that grazed livestock has the potential to significantly benefit farmers, the environment and rural communities. From creating opportunities for beginning farmers, to improving the soil, to helping make cover crops profitable, livestock are often a missing piece in Midwestern agricultural systems, where the grazing of vast herds of bison and elk were vital parts of the historical ecosystem.

But accessing land to graze or finding livestock farmers to partner with can be a challenge. The website lets users:

  • search listings, including through an interactive map with filters for criteria such as season, land, or livestock type
  • create listings of what land or livestock they have to offer
  • create a free account to save listings of interest, add new listings, see contact details and message other users
  • browse a curated list of grazing resources, including examples of grazing lease agreements and contracts
  • explore the benefits regenerative grazing for both landowners and livestock owners

The website also lists grazing specialists and organizations offering grazing support for each state participating in the exchange. 

“Integrating livestock on the landscape is a win-win-win for soil, animals and profitability,” said Meghan Filbert, livestock program manager at Practical Farmers of Iowa and a lead in the development of the new website. 

“The Midwest Grazing Exchange is unique because it serves multiple states in the Upper Midwest and expands beyond cover crop grazing. All grazing scenarios, including woodland and urban grazing, are represented. We want to unlock the plethora of benefits that come with well-managed grazing, and created a space to do so.”

Multi-species grazing on the Carney Family Farm in Maxwell, IA.

The Fall Gathering Goes Virtual…and Free

The annual Women in Sustainable Agriculture Fall Gathering takes to Zoom Nov. 13-15, and it’s free with a registration form and yes, a welcome donation if you can make one. The form here !

From the organizers, details are here: (all times are Central Time Zone):

  • Friday Nov. 13, 7-8:30 pm To set the stage for the weekend, on Friday night we will spend time with storytelling to reconnect with old friends and make new ones too!
  • Saturday Nov. 14, 9 am – noon We will kick off with a virtual farm tour and then be joined by Audrey Arner, our guest speaker.  Audrey owns Moonstone Farm and is an exceptional storyteller and facilitator. She writes:

Dear Wise WISA Fall Gatherers, 

On this crisp morning I am pulling the last eggplants, preparing the garlic bed, still processing apples, gathering the last of the herbaceous medicines and the end of the harvest season is in sight. On occasional sunny afternoons, seizing the opportunities to gather outside in comfort and sisterhood, I have been gathering out of doors with women yearning for contact while the weather permits.  Amid these circles, a topic that always arises is the difficulty in focusing in Covid Time.  I am the lucky one, having agreed months ago to talk with you all as part of WISA’s Fall Gathering. I am focusing on you.


“The Evolution and Elevation of Our Stories:  Regeneration Gone Viral in Covid Time”


Explore with me how stories have shaped us as women, as farmers, as changemakers, as futurists.  How we experience the world and what we determine to be possible are products of the stories that have come down to us from ancestors, from teachers, the media, our neighbors. Looking ahead together we are co-creating these narratives by the decisions we make and the lives that we live.  As food makers and soil stewards, mothers and aunties, guardians and gatherers, our stories are evolving, serving to guide our decision making and action.  For the winter before us and for the generations ahead, let us use new stories to fortify ourselves and to make manifest what we know needs to happen.

  • Saturday Nov. 14, 2-4:30 pm After a break, join us for another virtual farm tour and group time to dig deeper into stories & topics of interest
  • Sunday Nov. 15, 9-10:30 am We will wrap the weekend with gathering together to reflect on our learnings from the weekend and share thoughts on future WISA Gatherings.

You are welcome to attend all 4 sections of the agenda, but we also understand that you may not be able too.  That’s OK!  Join us when you can! Again, please register to be on our list to receive the Zoom link and other information, which will be sent closer to the meeting dates (We don’t want to get lost in your inbox if we send too early!!)  Please note: we will be using the Zoom platform but you do not need to connect via computer, ipad etc.  You can use a phone to call in to the meeting.   If you have any tech related questions please contact Lisa Dierks at

While there is no registration fee for 2020, we do have costs related to technology and our speaker.  If you would like to make a donation to cover these costs, please mail a check to:

Melissa Driscoll (WISA-MN Treas.)

46544 70th Ave.,

Kenyon, MN 55946