Conservation Efforts

By Caroline van Schaik, Driftless Region coordinator

Covering the soil could fix so much plus getting stream certified and other winter projects

Cover the soil to help repair agriculture…

I want to revisit this topic via the article referenced last month, now published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (JSWC) and available here: “Regenerative Agriculture as a Solution,” the piece explores the many points of intervention that living roots, covered soil, livestock, and an overarching requisite for justice offer a myriad of issues plaguing our landscape.

Figure 1 from the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation article entitled, “Regenerative Agriculture as a Solution.”

Figure 3 from the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation article entitled, “Regenerative Agriculture as a Solution.”

As I wrote last month, it is not just about agriculture. Think about washed out roads, good soil in the wrong place, chemicals in your well water, and yes, farmers having a hard time staying put, too. Making this published case was the brainchild of UMRI partners at the Wallace Center at Winrock International. The Wallace folk are members of the Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group (MPFWG) of Green Lands Blue Waters UMRI and other coalition partners joined Wallace staff in making strong arguments.

It illustrates how the MPFWG coalition comes together (on the phone, since members are based in several states) around all manner of efforts to shine light on the utility of permanently covered soil and grazing livestock. The JSWC article is our latest appeal.

In December, the MPFWG published a one page poster on some of the same topics:  The poster is aimed especially at township and county commissioners who must make careful decisions on how best to spend taxpayer dollars. Road and culvert blowouts, fierce storms, and bare farm fields demand increasing, and increasingly expensive, mitigation based on land management practices that could be altered for a much better end.

Saving money and soil are good ends. Please share it with your own county and township officials.

Ditch Work in the Minnesota River Drainage Basin

The 38 counties in this basin are intensely farmed in corn and beans, and its maze of agricultural ditches carries the silt and chemical residue of row crops into the Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf. UMRI volunteer and paid staff continue to scrutinize ditch projects that fail public water requirements. Currently focused on a dozen and with the help of engineers, lawyers, affected tribes, and occasionally, the agency community, they report the sting of accusations of interference and the cautious interest of the state. Better water? Yes, but…Please contact Dave Zentner for details:

Winter watching, winter projects

A heads up that Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) held its annual conference online in late January with something close to 1,000 participants not braving the weather to attend. Sometime in February, much of those workshops will be on PFI’s YouTube station.

Also on-going in preparation for – YES! – in-person training is on-line training to become a certified Save Our Stream monitor. I have referenced our intrepid group of stream team members in the Driftless region of southeast Minnesota, but you don’t need to know us to conduct SOS monitoring right where you are. Because of Covid-19, the national folks have put most of their training workshops into accessible on-line sessions. It is better in person, no argument, but for now, you can study your way through about two-thirds of what you need to know to do your own monitoring. The final bit needs to be in person, and we in southeast Minnesota have our trainer lined up for as soon as we can gather this year. For now, get yourself trained up to that point. Here is what you need to do/ know to get going. 

Monitoring Mill Creek under the bridge in Chatfield, Minn. Photo by Caroline van Schaik