Advancing our work in agricultural watersheds

Great River Greening recently advanced our efforts to restore land and water in rural Minnesota, first, by bringing our successful community program to the Seven Mile Creek Watershed, then, by expanding to other watersheds and developing an Agricultural Watersheds Advisory Committee.

Our work in agricultural watersheds is led by the vision that local solutions promise the greatest chance of success.

For a number of years, Great River Greening has worked in partnership with farmers who care deeply about Minnesota’s troubling water quality trends. We have taken innovative conservation measures that include streambank stabilization, cover cropping, controlled drainage, wild rice seeding, haying, filtration, and ravine erosion.

Last year, in Nicollet County, we worked with the Seven Mile Creek Partnership to host field days, and plan for farmer and community-led workshops. Also in the planning stage is a community assessment and county-wide survey to integrate at least 200 unique Nicollet County farmer voices, along with 200 voices from other stakeholder groups to state water planning efforts in the greater Middle Minnesota watershed

Last year, in Nicollet County, we worked with the Seven Mile Creek Partnership to host field days, and plan for farmer and community-led workshops. Also in the planning stage is a community assessment and county-wide survey to integrate at least 200 unique Nicollet County farmer voices, along with 200 voices from other stakeholder groups to state water planning efforts in the greater Middle Minnesota watershed.

An important next step was to ask the community to take on a stewardship role.

To date, Great River Greening has engaged 36,600 volunteers in restoration events in the metro area and beyond. Extending that activity to agricultural watersheds is meant to shine a light on some of the everyday things that farmers are doing for water quality, and bring people who may have no experience in a rural environment to a working farm.

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This fall, more than 80 volunteers spent two days on farms in St. Peter to restore water quality to Seven Mile Creek, a popular local trout stream. (Photo:Pat Christman/Mankato Free Press)

In one field, 30 volunteers waded through ankle deep mud to plant prairie cordgrass rhizomes in a drainage ditch. This will become a demonstration site to observe how the grass could both reduce erosion and produce a potential revenue-producing biomass crop.

In another, about 50 volunteers hauled and stacked woody invasive plants from a ravine, to help create a better filter for runoff water before it enters Seven Mile Creek. This farm is enrolled into the Conservation Reserve Program.

In addition to the Seven Mile Creek Watershed Program, Great River Greening is a partner in the Sand Creek Targeted Watershed Program, led by Scott Watershed Management Organization.

Sand Creek drains farmland in Rice, Le Sueur, and Scott counties. Great River Greening will develop and oversee 10 riparian restorations along Sand Creek and build relations with the local community through one-on-one landowner outreach and community volunteer events.

These efforts and others in the future are being guided by Great River Greening’s new Agricultural Watersheds Advisory Committee, chaired by Jake Hamlin of Cenex Harvest States. Members include producers and agriculture-related businesses.

Courtland area farmer John Luepke (right), a regional board director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, joined volunteer Pam Joachim of Chanhassen on the long walk along wet, muddy conditions to assist in Saturday’s community-based restoration project on the Charley and Kathy Vogel farm in rural St. Peter, Oshawa Township. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

(Pictured) Courtland area farmer John Luepke (right), a regional board director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, joined volunteer Pam Joachim of Chanhassen on the long walk along wet, muddy conditions to assist in Saturday’s community-based restoration project on the Charley and Kathy Vogel farm in rural St. Peter, Oshawa Township. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

A diverse group of volunteers joined conservation efforts Saturday, including several Gustavus Adolphus College students. About 60 volunteers signed up for the restoration project in Oshawa Township; most showed up despite wet, muddy conditions. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

(Pictured) A diverse group of volunteers joined conservation efforts Saturday, including several Gustavus Adolphus College students. About 60 volunteers signed up for the restoration project in Oshawa Township; most showed up despite wet, muddy conditions. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

 

instructions prior to getting started, removing brush and debris from a ravine on the Oshawa Township farm, on the western part of the Seven Mile Creek Watershed. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

(Pictured) Volunteers get instructions prior to getting started, removing brush and debris from a ravine on the Oshawa Township farm, on the western part of the Seven Mile Creek Watershed. (Dana Melius/St. Peter Herald)

Partners & Funders: Agribank, CHS, Clean Water Fund, Clifbar Family Foundation, Bush Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Nicollet SWCD, Seven Mile Creek Watershed residents and farmers, Seven Mile Creek Watershed Partnership, University of Minnesota.

Photos not previously credited: Trevor Cokely