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Family enrolls 75 acres for permanent restoration

Nearing retirement, a Mower County farm family decided to give their farmland as part of an effort for nature conservation and water quality.

The Garbisch family enrolled 75 acres of their farmland as the first Mower County sign-up for the MN CREP program. Steve and Sharrie Garbisch, who own about 160 acres, wanted to enroll their land for permanent restoration into conservation acres with native plants.

Inside the Mower Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)’s office, Garbisch shared his family’s intent to give the remaining land for the mission of conservation and restoration -— land that he and Sharrie built and worked since the early 1980s. With his family not interested in farming, and having a successful sales career, Garbisch wanted to make sure that the farmland would be utilized in nature conservation.

“I don’t think I could enjoy watching someone else farm our land,” he said. “With MN CREP, this conservation land will be there for them to enjoy for many years after we’re gone.”

MN CREP is a voluntary state-federal program created to improve water quality and wildlife habitat through permanent conservation easements that keep the land under private ownership. This program was created to protect and restore up to 60,000 acres of cropland across 54 southern and western Minnesota counties by using vegetative buffers, wetland restoration and drinking water wellhead protection.

Although this marked the first MN CREP sign-up for Mower County under the latest round that launched in 2017. The Garbischs enrolled 80 acres of their farmland about 10 years ago into permanent conservation in a previous CREP round.

A second MN CREP sign-up was also finalized for Mower County for 6.3 acres of cropland that was owned by the Loucks family near Rose Creek.

Landowners who are accepted into MN CREP enroll in the federal USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for 14 to 15 years. The land is put into a permanent conservation easement through the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program.

“CREP is one of the biggest tools in our tool box for clean water and habitat programs,” said Justin Hanson, SWCD district manager. “Steve Garbisch and his family wanted to make a difference and leave a legacy to promote family activities.”

Permanent restoration of the 75-acre parcel may start sometime later this year with plans for hydrology to be restored on the site, which will be seeded with a variety of different native plants and grasses that are beneficial to wildlife and pollinators.

Half of Garbischs’ land—which equals about 615 acres in a two-square-mile area—will be put in conservation programs or be part of the woods and floodplains along Roberts Creek. The west and east ends of the total 160 acres belonging to the Garbischs will be split evenly by Mower County Road 16.

“I don’t say enough about what you do,” Garbisch said to the SWCD. “We’re excited to get the final seeding done. I am excited, and I can’t say that enough.”