Farm Horizons, February 2015

Outstanding conservationists recognized throughout Minnesota

Several outstanding conservationists were recognized at the annual convention of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) in Bloomington Dec. 9.

Area recipients included:

• Wright County – Jerry Ford and Mariénne Kreitlow of Howard Lake,

• Carver County – Elroy and Kandy Knauer of Cologne,

• Meeker County – Darlene Miller of Litchfield, and

• Sibley County – Randy and Leslie Franke of Gaylord.

The Outstanding Conservationist Award, which is sponsored by MASWCD with support from The Farmer magazine, recognizes individuals, conservation organizations, and others for outstanding accomplishments with implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota’s natural resources

In addition to the award presentation, the annual convention includes business meetings, updates on current issues, a keynote speaker, training sessions, and a tradeshow.

At the business meeting, the 445 elected Soil and Water Conservation District board members have an opportunity to cast their vote regarding issues that MASWCD should address in the coming year.

Wright County’s Outstanding Conservationist award winners are Jerry Ford and Mariénne Kreitlow of Middleville Township.

Jerry and Mariénne run the 288-acre Living Song Farm, managing conservation practices on an 80-acre homestead. They work with Kevin Stokes on the remaining 208 acres.

Living Song Farm is a fourth-generation family farmstead (116 years), on which Mariénne’s father, Willard Kreitlow, still works at the age of 92.

Jerry continues Willard’s conservation practices, such as grass waterways, contour farming, and a rotation of crops that started in the 1940s.

Since Jerry and Mariénne’s return in 2002, they renovated windbreaks through the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and converted 33.5 acres of pasture into a rotational grazing system. Seventy acres of their land became certified organic as of September 2014.

Jerry considers himself a conservationist who has the good fortune to also be a farmer.

“We use sustainable practices, so we don’t have to squeeze every bit of profit out of the land,” Jerry explained.

Willard’s low impact, low input practices have created a highly-sustainable farm.

Jerry explained, “When we take care of the land, we become more financially robust, because there is a reduction in the ‘fixing’ costs (such as adding fertilizer, spraying herbicides, and mending erosion issues).”

Mariénne and Jerry have also used their farm to support new, young farmers who want to get started, renting land to two different Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) start-ups and hosting several interns.

Not only does Jerry demonstrate conservation on his own farm, he is also the events coordinator for the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA), which is a statewide non-profit conservation education organization. The Crow River Chapter covers the Twin Cities and the Crow River watershed.

The SFA believes in environmental stewardship, profitability, and strong rural communities.

In addition, Jerry is the director of the Minnesota Garlic Festival.

One of Jerry’s short-term plans includes implementing more cover crop practices for his fields.

A long-term plan is to find the next generation to continue the conservation practices.

Mariénne and Jerry’s passion for the land is the driving force behind their sustainable farming practices, and they plan to continue them for future generations to enjoy.

They love farming, and believe that “conservation of the land comes first.”

Jerry notes that none of this would have been possible without the help of Willard, his father-in-law and mentor.

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