Jerry and Susan Mealman Named 2021 Conservation Leaders
Every year, the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is grateful to work with
outstanding landowners who help create conservation projects that benefit the land’s natural resources. And every year, the Scott SWCD honors them through the Conservation Leaders Program, which gives appreciation and recognition to outstanding conservationists, trendsetters, and stewards of the land in Scott County.
This year, the Scott SWCD is proud to recognize Jerry and Susan Mealman as the 2021 Conservation Leaders.
The Start of Something New
Susan and Jerry started restoration projects on their Spring Lake home after attending a Scott SWCD “Stabilize your Shoreline” webinar in 2017. They had initial interest in installing a native buffer planting and got right to work with assistance from SWCD technicians. From the start, they knew restoring their entire shoreline was the best plan for sustained land stability, and improved water quality in Spring Lake. SWCD technicians put together a native grass and wildflower mix to spread on their 133 feet of shoreline. Spring Lake flows directly into Prior Lake, which drains to the Minnesota River, so projects like the Mealmans that prevent contaminants from entering the lake have a profound downstream effect.
The shoreline restoration provided a stable bank that protects water quality, and valuable habitat for local birds and other wildlife. Since it’s installation, the Mealmans have documented numerous species of bees and other pollinators frequenting their flowers, with one active bee colony taking up home in a decaying tree stump along their shoreline.
“Every year we look for new species. It’s a joy to know our home provides a sanctuary for so many different pollinators,” Susan remarks.
Now in its fifth year, the planting is fully established, with a wide variety of flowers like purple asters, red cardinal flowers, and black eyed susans blooming all throughout the growing season.
In addition to the shoreline restoration, the Mealmans were given a unique opportunity with their Spring Lake property when they acquired it in 2016. The previously existing home had structural damages that required extensive renovation. They made the decision to build a new home instead, and to regrade the entire landscape at the same time. The Mealmans molded the contours of their land to direct runoff away from Spring Lake, even taking on the runoff from neighboring roofs and driveways. To accomplish this, they constructed an infiltration area for rain and snowmelt can soak into the ground rather than run directly into the lake.
There was a portion of the Mealmans yard that could not be redirected, and the couple wasted no time installing a solution to the problem: a raingarden. In 2020, with the help of Scott SWCD Natural Resource Specialist Meghan Darley, the Mealmans dug up 150 sq. ft. of land where sloping hills met the shoreline, and they installed a raingarden to catch oncoming water. The garden serves multiple purposes; not only does it catch potentially polluted runoff from rain events, the raingarden also provides pollinator habitat and secures soil in place better than traditional turf lawns. The Mealmans worked with the Scott SWCD to create a plant kit that has flowers blooming from early Spring to late Fall.
The Mealmans finished off their landscaping by installing a pollinator lawn. The lawn consists of red and Dutch clover in fescue grass and has greater drought-tolerance then typical Kentucky Blue Grass. The Mealmans practice low maintenance on their lawn and avoid conventional pesticides and herbicides. Their lawn supports greater biodiversity and looks healthy and vibrant in the summer of 2021 despite a year of low rain.
Trendsetting for Pollinators
After converting the entirety of their backyard shoreline to native vegetation, 2021 had the Mealmans searching for new opportunities to add even more pollinator habitat and native plants to their property. 2021 was also the year that the Scott SWCD was awarded a Lawns to Legumes Demonstration Neighborhood grant. With funds awarded from this new Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) program, the Scott SWCD aimed to establish a series of pollinator plantings across several properties in close proximity of each other. When the call for participants went out, the Mealmans and their inspired neighbors answered.
The program had overwhelming success. Nine neighbors banded together and installed fourteen native plantings including lakeshore buffers, pollinating lawns, tree & shrub plantings, and pocket plantings. The plantings total just over 7500 sq. ft. of new native habitat that together create an even greater nesting area for Minnesota’s state bee: the Rusty Patched Bumblebee. Of the 7500 sq. ft. established, 800 sq. ft. were established by the Mealmans with the help of Meghan Darley again, and the Scott SWCD office’s Resource Conservation Technician, Hannah Plonsky.
Reflections for the Future
The Mealmans are always conscious of their impact on the land, and they put consideration for the future at the forefront of their decisions. “We know we won’t be here forever, and we want to leave the land better than we found it.” Jerry and Susan agree.
With all their wisdom, they were asked what advice they had for farmers and producers who are thinking about implementing new, conservation practices on their land. “If you can work a shovel, you can do conservation,” they said. “And don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t always have to be precise. Take notes. Enjoy the beauty. And most of all, know that no matter who you are, you can make a difference.”
Congratulations to Jerry and Susan Mealman for their Conservation Leader recognition, and may their positive impacts continue to improve the water quality, wildlife habitat, and natural resources in Scott County.