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Simon Family Agriculture named 2023 Conservation Leaders

With 2023 coming to a close, the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) takes a moment to recognize the positive influence that families have on the natural resources and leadership roles within our communities through their Conservation Leaders program.


The Conservation Leaders program 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 Simon Family Agriculture as the 2023 Conservation Leaders.


The Simon’s—encompassing Adam and Danielle Simon and their three children—have become ambassadors for sustainable agriculture practices, including no-till farming and cover crops. The Simon’s have also installed numerous projects to reduce erosion, planted over 1,000 Minnesota native trees, and they represent the community through multiple leadership roles. The family’s legacy is far-reaching and paradigmatic.


Saving his fields


Adam Simon’s journey into conservation started back in 2014 when—after purchasing his mother’s family farm—discovered heavily erosive cropland damaged by a previous renter. The renter had removed valuable contours on the land’s steep slopes which caused extensive soil loss and degradation.


Adam immediately knew he wanted to return the land to its previous health. The improvements he made would turn into a catalyst for many conservation projects that are now applied on his fields.


Adam contacted the Scott SWCD in the fall of 2014, and technicians helped make a repair plan in several phases. Phase one would be tackling the seasonal erosion. Scott SWCD technicians designed four grassed waterways for his field. A grassed waterway is a constructed channel planted with perennial grass to control erosion. After installing them in 2015, Adam spent countless hours maintaining them through light reshaping, reseeding, and mulching. They are still in use today.


Phase two of repairs targeted the upland, more permanent erosion the Simon’s were experiencing. For this, the Scott SWCD designed three acres of contour buffer strips—designed to slow the flow of water as it moves downhill—which were installed in 2016 and still thriving and functional in 2023.


“After everything was installed, I’ve never lost crop yield in my hilly, variable soils. That’s amazing.” Adam said.


Diving into no-till

After his success in improving soil quality, Adam dove into other strategies to treat his erosion. He discovered the concept of no-till through internet research and quickly began experimenting with it. No-till is exactly like it sounds: growing crops without disturbing the ground through tillage. The result is increased nutrient retention, increased soil health, and reduced erosion. Adam initially signed up for no-till through the Scott SWCD’s program in 2018. Since then, he’s gone above and beyond, adding more acreage to his operation every year until he became fully no-till on all of his 140 operable acres, a practice that he continues into 2023.


In addition to converting to no-till, Adam started using cover crops in the fall of 2018, aerial seeding 16 acres on a high-visibility corner of one of his fields. September cover crop seedings allow seed mixtures to grow throughout the fall and then go dormant in the winter, maintaining their root-stabilizing and nutrient-replenishing benefits. Adam said he noticed the difference in his soil health almost immediately.


On a memorable spring morning in 2020, Adam recalled walking out to his field after a two-inch rain event. He wanted to see what the massive dumping of water had done to his soil. Back in 2012, if he would have grabbed a handful after such a rain, it would have felt like molding clay: wet, heavy, and sticky. But when he picked up a clump of dirt last spring, the soil fell to the ground in perfect cottage cheese clumps: light, airy, and full of nutrients.

After seeing the initial success, Adam continued experimenting with cover crops and has protected upwards of 88 acres of land annually.


Future Plans


Adam has no plans to cut back on any of his existing practices, nor does he plan to get complacent with routine. “You always have to keep trying new things,” he says. “That’s part of the fun of it.”


Adam signed up with the Scott SWCD’s nutrient management variable rate incentive program to implement the practice next spring. Nutrient management is the precise application of fertilizer using variable rate technology to minimize over fertilization and potential nutrient loss. It’s both economically and environmentally efficient and minimizes pollution to surface waters.


With all their experience, The Simon’s were asked what advice they had for farmers and producers who are thinking about implementing new conservation practices on their land. “Be patient and do you research. There’s a lot of information out there and a lot of support available,” Adam said. “And always keep in mind the land that you’re going to leave your kids. You have to set the next generation up for success.”


Adam Simon is an advocate and ambassador for improved soil health in Scott County. He is continually learning about and improving his operation and—most importantly—maintaining the good practices he’s already started. He views conservation not only as the way to move forward, but a way to improve the land that his children to inherit one day.

 

Congratulations to Simon Family Agriculture for their Conservation Leader recognition, and may their positive impacts continue to improve the soil quality, water quality, and environment in Scott County.

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