Tapp family honored for farm conservation

Published 7:54 am Thursday, August 8, 2019

From streams to farm fields, Gene and Bridget Tapp have applied conservation practices over the years to help keep soil as well as streambanks from washing away during heavy rainfall.

With about 1,000 acres farmed for corn and soybeans in the Brownsdale area, the Tapps have worked with Mower Soil & Water Conservation District to install grass waterways in fields; build earthen embankments to control stormwater; enroll about four and a half acres into the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP); and stabilize stream banks on the North Branch of Dobbins Creek, a Cedar River tributary prone to flash floods.

Tapps also are among a small number of area farmers practicing no-till soybeans, said Cody Fox, Mower SWCD project manager. No till — not digging up the soil — provides benefits to a farm operation along with improving water quality and soil health.

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“The Tapps are a great family,” Fox said. “We have worked a lot with Gene on installing various conservation practices in recent years. He’s a conscientious farmer who cares about soil erosion and keeps an open mind to our ideas.”

On Tuesday, Mower SWCD honored Gene and Bridget Tapp as its 2019 Conservationists of the Year during the Mower County Fair’s opening ceremony. Mower SWCD’s Board of Supervisors choose each year’s award recipient.

The Tapps will be honored with other SWCD honorees in December at the 83rd annual convention of the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD). Annually, SWCDs in Minnesota nominate farmers, individuals, conservation organizations and other groups for implementing conservation practices and improving the natural resources.

Also Tuesday, Mower SWCD honored the Garbisch Family as its 2019 Outstanding Wildlife Conservationist of the Year for its efforts west of Brownsdale along Roberts Creek to enroll nearly 155 acres of cropland into permanent conservation easements for native prairie and wetlands. The award honors Steve and Sharon Garbisch, who own the land, and Steve’s siblings David, Eileen and Ruth.

Gene and Bridget Tapp

Growing his 41st crop this year, Gene Tapp, a third-generation farmer, grew up farming with his father, Gaylord, and late grandfather, Harvey, who started the family farm in the early 1940s growing crops and raising hogs and dairy cattle.

Gene and Bridget Tapp, who have grown the family farm’s acreage over time, own 540 acres in Red Rock and Dexter townships. They rent about 460 acres in Sargeant and Waltham townships in northern Mower County. Their son, Branden, is a fourth-generation farmer who also operates in the area.

The Tapps have implemented an array of projects to preserve the land’s long-term productivity and protect Dobbins Creek’s water quality. That has included working with Mower SWCD to build grass waterways that help the Tapps farm on sloping land, reduce gully erosion in fields and improve water quality by trapping sediment on upland areas.

In the past year, the Tapps also worked with Mower SWCD and Cedar River Watershed District to use their land for restoring streambanks to stabilize and protect Dobbins Creek’s north branch as it flows through their farm.

The Garbisch Family, from left, Stephanie, Chris, Emerson and Steve Garbisch, stand on part of the family’s land, west of Brownsdale. They are Mower SWCD’s 2019 Outstanding Wildlife Conservationists.

Garbisch Family — Outstanding Wildlife Conservationists

The Garbisch Family — including Steve Garbisch, his wife Sharon and his siblings David, Eileen and Ruth — has contributed to enhancing Mower County’s wildlife habitat by enrolling cropland twice into permanent conservation in Red Rock Township.

Since 1934, the Garbisch Family has had 160 acres along Roberts Creek, a Cedar River tributary, starting with their late parents, Gilbert and Helen Garbisch, who farmed the land split equally by Mower County Road 16.

Steve and Sharon Garbisch, were honored in March by Mower SWCD for being the first in Mower County to get finalized for MN CREP, a program that permanently restores cropland into conservation acres with native plantings.

Steve now is working with SWCD to restore the farm’s remaining 75 acres through MN CREP that will include planting a highly diverse mixture of native grasses and forbs that are beneficial to wildlife and pollinator habitat.     

With the family’s 75 conservation acres, about 615 acres in a 2-square-mile area — nearly half the land — are in conservation programs or part of Roberts Creek’s woods and floodplains. That supports many geese, ducks and sandhill cranes that return yearly.

Steve and Sharon also are happy that all the CREP acres on their land will be there for many years to come for the enjoyment of their son, Chris, and his family — wife Stephanie and daughter Emerson — who live in the area and love the outdoors.