“I’d honestly just like to thank all my fellow producers who have helped me throughout the years. It’s always a team effort, and everyone learns from everyone else.“ Jim Schwingler, a farmer in Jordan, speaks of his recognition from the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP): a voluntary opportunity for farmers to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water.
Certified producers have their operations assessed in five categories of conservation. The categories include: tillage, nutrient management, pest management, irrigation and drainage, and conservation practice. Producers must also be in good standing with all state laws and regulations.
If criteria are met, they receive regulatory certainty, recognition, and priority for technical assistance. Additionally, the public receives assurance that certified producers are using conservation practices that protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams.
Schwingler has been implementing conservation projects on his land for over seven years and has continually witnessed the benefits to his soils. When asked why he chose to pursue this certification, he says, “it’s another great tool in the toolbox, one that speaks to the general public and other producers alike. It’s a way to say to everyone ‘this can be done and it’s working’.”
Schwingler is one of four other producers in the county who have received recognition from the MAWQCP, and six other producers have received a more local recognition called “Lake Friendly Farm”. The Lake Friendly Farm certification is available to producers within the Prior Lake-Spring Lake Watershed District and its criteria are specific to the water quality needs of that watershed.
Joe Hentges, who has received Lake Friendly Farm certification on six farms that he manages, said he didn’t have to make too many changes to his operation to get the certification.
“Farmers want clean water, and everything we do helps protect both the soil we work on and the water that’s around it,” Hentges says. “This certification program helps show the general public that we’re protecting the environment any way we can. We’re making sure there’s farmable land for future generations.”
Producers apply for these certification programs with the help of technical specialists at the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). Any producer who is interested in the programs, or who is experiencing issues like erosion or soil loss on their property can contact the office for free technical assistance.
“Going through certification is no small task.” Says Diann Vosejpka, SWCD Ag Program Specialist. “We are lucky to have so many producers in our county who are willing to learn, experiment, and make management changes to benefit water quality.”
If you are a producer who is interested in implementing soil health practices on your operation or enrolling your farm in a certification program, the Scott SWCD offers free technical assistance and project designs. Cost share for the implementation of select conservation practices may be available, contact the office at 952-492-5425 to get started.