‘We’re in this together’ – CRWP shares progress from first year of partnership

Published 7:40 am Thursday, January 17, 2019

Farmers, Hormel Foods and Mower Soil and Water Conservation District staff want to continue their work in improving health for farms as well as water quality throughout the area.

Around 50 farmers and community partners gathered inside Hormel Foods Sale Cabin on Wednesday morning to discuss partnerships and connecting growers with additional resources to help demonstrate what sustainability means to the Minnesota farming community.

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Titled “Partnering for Profitability: Connecting the full set of farm services for your bottom line,” farmers were walked through practical farming strategies, and given reports about the farmer and community impacts within the first year of the partnership.

People visit a field last year during the first connection of the Cedar River Watershed District Partnership. Photo provided

“We’re in this together,” said Justin Hanson, Mower Soil and Water Conservation District manager. “We have some common themes on how to improve your farm.”

The Cedar River Watershed Partnership is the state’s first public-private-nonprofit partnership that provides farmers with tools and resources to help them adopt new farm management strategies to improve the soil, water and economic health of their farms and address the challenges of water quality in the Cedar River Watershed.

Those who live and work in the Cedar River Watershed face water resource challenges from flooding, erosion, sedimentation and nutrient loading, according to Hanson, but with the CRWP, those involved can brainstorm ideas as well as connecting with others to continue improving farm management as well as water quality.

Convened and managed by Minnesota nonprofit Environmental Initiative, the Cedar River Watershed Partnership is a collaboration of Central Farm Service, Hormel Foods, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Within the last year, the partnership has promoted everything from grid sampling to soil sampling, and highlighted Riverland Community College’s Center for Ag and Food Science Technology students, in partnership with SWCD scientists, to gather data on soil health specific to local land in Mower County.

Photo from the first year of the Cedar River Watershed Partnership last year. Photo provided

“There isn’t enough data out there, Hanson said. “We’re trying to pull scientific data and tying back to local data.”

One of those efforts included the effects of nitrogen in soil and leaks. Although research is still early, there’s hope that from the findings in those studies will help with improving farming methods.

“There’s no silver bullet for nitrogen,” said Jason Louks, a farmer. “It’s going to take a sweep of practices and forward thinking to make better practices.”

Environmental sustainability was an important aspect to agronomics. For Hormel Foods, it seemed natural to facilitate a dialogue with community members about sustainability and to be a part of the conversations unfolding at CWRP.

“Hormel Foods has been committed to sustainable manufacturing operations,” said Tom Raymond, director of environmental sustainability at Hormel Foods. “The core principle of sustainability is the good stewardship of resources. …We want our next generation to have better quality resources and to thrive as well. …we all benefit .”