Frank Family Farms honored at fair for its conservation efforts; Mower County operation uses strip tillage and more

Published 8:40 am Thursday, August 10, 2017

DEXTER — Farming in the headwaters of Rose Creek has presented soil-erosion challenges to the Frank family while operating 1,100 acres for corn, soybeans and hay near Dexter.

“We believe a big part of being farmers is to be good stewards of what God has given us to be in charge of,” Tom Frank said. “That is not only doing our best to run a profitable, sustainable farming operation but also to care for the land.”

For its efforts, Frank Family Farms is the 2017 Conservationist of the Year for Mower County as chosen by Mower Soil and Water Conservation District’s Board of Supervisors.

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The family was honored Tuesday at the Mower County Fair and will be again in December at the 81st annual convention of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Local SWCDs annually nominate farmers, individuals, conservation organizations and other groups for implementing conservation practices and improving the natural resources.

Frank Family Farms addresses soil erosion  issues with a variety of conservation practices including:

• Six grass waterways (about 18 acres total),

• Cover crops incorporated into a 300-acre corn field,

•  Buffers established voluntarily,

• A sediment-control drop structure in a waterway to prevent erosion,  and

• Using strip tillage on all cropland.

“The Franks care a lot about the land and that really shows when you drive around their fields,” said Aaron Gamm, a Mower  County SWCD district technician who has worked with the family on projects. “They have done a lot of conservation work but still continue to seek and try new ways of managing their fields even better.”

According to a news release from the Mower County SWCD, Herman and Marge Frank moved from farming in Illinois to Mower County with children, Ed, Ted and Eileen in 1974. They set up on 480 acres

Today, Frank Family Farms is led by Ed and Cindy Frank and Ted and Kim Frank with their son, Tom Frank, and wife, Kelsey. They farm mostly in Dexter Township with some in Grand Meadow Township and also operate a birth-to-market hog operation, including 600 sows.

In 2010, the Franks started converting their farming to strip till in corn and soybeans to address soil erosion. Strip till is a practice that disturbs less soil by not tilling the entire field – only strips for planting row crops. It leaves more crop residue on the soil to act as a protective layer and slow down stormwater runoff.

Several reasons drove the decision to switch to strip till, including labor, fuel and machinery savings, Tom Frank said. A major reason, however, was to slow erosion and improve soil structure to enable the soil to absorb and hold more moisture.