2019 CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR

Virginia Homme named 2019 Chippewa SWCD Conservationist of the Year

Written by: Tom Cherveny, WCTribune

Tom Warner, SWCD District Manager, presents a Redlin print to Virginia Homme, 2019 Chippewa SWCD Conservationist of the Year, in recognition of her strong commitment to conservation practices.

The Chippewa County SWCD Conservationist of the Year may have put the years of making hay, tending to cattle and raising crops behind her, but caring for the land remains her passion.

Virginia Homme lives on a very diverse, 17-acre farm site that is part of a quarter section in Granite Falls Township. The property has belonged to the Homme family since the early 1940’s. Farming has been a tradition for the families of Virginia Homme and her late husband, Paul, for generations.

A ditch runs through the fields and farm site on its path to the nearby Minnesota River.  To protect against erosion and improve water quality, Virginia has planted buffer plots on slopes next to the ditch.

She had the first planted as a native pollinator plot in 2018. She said it has proven to be very successful.  It blooms with a succession of colorful, nectar-bearing flowers through the length of the growing season.

It’s pleasing to the eye, and provides habitat for wildlife too. This past summer, a wild turkey chose to nest in the middle of the plot.  Now, wild turkeys are part of her neighborhood.

Homme had the second plot planted with a mix of native grasses and forbes to benefit pollinators in the fall of 2019. Like the first plot, it is coming into its own and doing well, she said.  The native perennials hold the soil with their roots and provide year around cover on the ditch slopes. The plants protect against wind and water erosion that would otherwise wash the rich glacial soils into the ditch and  Minnesota River.

It takes commitment. Virginia and her son, Erik, hand weeded box elder seedlings and other, undesired plants. She enlisted a neighbor’s help too. He used his old Alice Chalmers tractor with a belly mower to perform mid-season mowing.

Virginia Homme made this site her home in 2008. She said that she realized right away that a portion of the area where the ditch flows through the farm site looked like a natural place for a wetland or small pond.

She presented the idea to the Chippewa County Soil and Water Conservation District staff this past summer.  They enlisted the help of an engineer, who agreed with her assessment and also saw the benefits it could provide. A wetland at this site could help slow the flow of water from a large Conservation Reserve Program wetland that is located upstream and across the road from this quarter section.

Weather and funding permitting, Homme said she is hopeful the wetland project will happen this year.

She’s also made her mark on the local landscape by making her home a model for energy independence and reducing our carbon footprint. Her home is heated and cooled with an energy-efficient geo-thermal system. In late August of 2010, she sought to further reduce her carbon footprint by turning to solar and wind power to produce the electricity to power her system and light her home.

Green Energy Products had a system online for her by late fall. She now has a 3.7 KW wind turbine and a 6.44 KW solar panel at work. She received a 30 percent tax credit for the costs of installing the systems.  She points out that the costs of installing either are much lower today.

Solar has proven to be the better value for small scale production, according to Homme.  It costs less to install than wind and doesn’t require the maintenance. The solar panels have saved 146,000 pounds of CO2 from being added to  our atmosphere. The wind turbine saves about 20 percent more of the CO2 total.

Virginia Homme sought to reduce her carbon footprint by turning to solar and wind power to produce the electricity to power her energy-efficient farm and home. (Photo courtesy of CURE)

Her recent accomplishments are in keeping with a life-long commitment to good stewardship.

Virginia and her husband Paul graduated from the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota and married as the Korean war flared and a draft was in place. Paul joined the Air Force and remained in his military career for 21 years.

Yet during most of those years, the family would use their vacation and leave time to return to Granite Falls to help Paul’s father with the haying and his cow calf operation.

When Paul retired in 1976,  the couple began farming on the family land.  They built an energy efficient house on the bluff of the Minnesota River across from the Upper Sioux Agency State Park in Hawk Creek Township, Renville County.

(Paul died suddenly at age 74 in 2004, just nine months shy of what would have been the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.)

Some of the fields they farmed were river bottom land prone to spring flooding. By the early 80’s,  there were even summer floods that ruined their crops. One year, there was even a fall flood.

The couple went to a lot of meetings in hopes there would be steps taken to slow the upstream water and reduce flooding, but to no avail.

They enrolled a portion of the flood prone land in the Reinvest in Minnesota or RIM wetland program.  The remainder is protected from erosion as pastures and used for rotational grazing for grass fed beef.

The steep river bluff on this land is restored as well, thanks to our conservationist. In 2017 she was able to work with the short-lived Working Lands program. It provided cost-sharing assistance to remove invasive cedars from the bluff and allow native seeds to once again emerge. The hillside was historically a dry prairie, and these special grasses and forbes once again make this a special landscape.

Thousands of visitors to the Upper Sioux Agency State Park enjoy the view of the restored bluffland, the floodplain wetlands, and the waterfowl and other wildlife they attract. Most of them are unaware of the individual who has made this possible. With her recognition as this year’s Chippewa SWCD Conservationist of the Year, perhaps more people will now realize how much Virginia Homme has done to protect our lands.

 

2018 Conservationist of the Year

On December 11, 2018 Jerry and Ruth Ann Lee were recognized as the Chippewa SWCD Conservationist of the Year the the MASWCD Annual Convention in Bloomington, MN.

Following their return, Jerry and Ruth Ann were congratulated and presented at the Chippewa SWCD board meeting on December 13th.

Please look for our article in our annual report featuring Jerry and Ruth Ann.

Jerry and Ruth Ann at the Annual Convention

Ruth Ann & Jerry at their stream bank restoration project along the Chippewa River.

The Lees with District Manager, Tom Warner at their recognition.

2017 Conservationist

VanRavenswaay named Chippewa County Conservationist of the Year

The Chippewa SWCD presents Carl Van Ravenswaay as Conservationist of the Year for 2017.

Carl, wife Wendy, and their children live near Montevideo. Carl farms a corn-bean rotation with some black beans using conventional tillage on 2,450 acres that he shares in a joint venture with Halvorson Management.

Carl is active in using conservation practices including water and sediment control basins,terraces, waterways, tree plantings, filter strips, CRP,buffers and food plots. Carl also custom feeds hogs,completes annual soil testing, and utilizes covercrops, knife injected manure spreading, and integrated pest management.

In 2017, he worked with the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and the landowners to install a series of conservation practices. Carl utilized the SWCD’s State Cost Share program and NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) to install two narrow grass back terraces totaling 2,035 feet and two water and sediment control basins.

Through the SWCD’s Disaster Recovery Assistance Program (DRAP) a 300 foot water and sediment control basin was also installed. Carl worked with NRCS and through CRP he helped to install 2,337 feet of grass waterway adjacent to the Chippewa River. He also seeded down a grass filter strip. In 2013, 2014, and 2015 Carl completed 1,303 acres of both Nutrient and Pest Management through EQIP and the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

Carl played a key role in the processes of installing these projects. He was very patient and understanding throughout the process. He coordinated contract paperwork, estimates and bids between the landowners, the contractors, and the SWCD and NRCS office. He took it upon himself to do some of the legwork and helped with some of the steps to complete them.

The SWCD and NRCS appreciates the work that Carl puts into not only his land but his rented land as well.

Board Chair Scott Roelofs presents Carl and Wendy Van Ravenswaay at the December SWCD Board Meeting

 

2016 Conservationist

Andresen named Chippewa County Conservationist of the Year

Mike Andresen, of Montevideo, has been named the

2016 Chippewa SWCD Conservationist of the Year.

The Chippewa Soil and Water Conservation District

nominated Andresen, and he received the honor at

the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation

District’s (MASWCD) annual state convention recently held in

Bloomington. He was one of 64 other conservationists who were

honored from other counties in the state.

Andresen farms a corn and soybean rotation with conservation

tillage on 125 acres. He has previously been an Minnesota Pollution

Control Agency water quality volunteer. In 2015 he worked with

NRCS and the SWCD to install two water and sediment control

basins and one grade stabilization structure. He also installed

a native grass wildlife habitat planting and seeded a critical area

planting in 2015. From 2013 to 2015 he maintained

nutrient/pest management on 205 acres.

Andresen has 4,700 feet of established field windbreaks on

one of his farms, as well as a farmstead shelterbelt. He has a

total of 74.86 acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program

(CRP) and has 28 acres of pasture land. Mike is also a conservation

contractor and did all of his own work, installing the erosion

control practices on his own.

Andresen is also an avid sportsman. Recently, Mike and fellow

members of the Tri-County Sportsman Club built and opened

Mills Creek Gun Range on five acres of Mike’s land just north of

Montevideo. He was recognized locally at the SWCD board

meeting in early December with a gift from the

Chippewa SWCD, which was a rustic, custom made sign that was

made out of black walnut, deer antlers, and a painting of a whitetail

deer scene by local craftsman and artist Doug Pederson.

Mike Andresen, of Montevideo, has established conservation practices

on much of his land in Chippewa County, including 28 acres of

pasture land and 74.86 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program.

Scott Roelofs (right), district supervisor of the Chippewa SWCD, presented

Mike Andresen with a gift that Andresen will display in his hunting

shack.

 

Buffer Law Updates

For more information on the buffer law please take a look at the Board of Water & Soil Resources website and the Minnesota DNR website by following the links below.

http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers/

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/buffers/index.html

Chippewa SWCD will follow the monitoring plan below for buffer compliance tracking.

Monitoring Plan and Buffer Compliance Tracking

Monitoring Plan Map

Kids Poster Contest

2016 Poster Contest ThemeNACD Logo_Final_PTHS

 

“We All Need Trees”

2016 5th Grade Poster Contest Winners

Past Conservationist

Steve Nokleby, 2013 Conservationist of the Year.

steve-noklebyThe Chippewa Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors chose to pay tribute to the memory of Steve Nokleby and nominated  him as their recipient of the 2013 Conservationist of the Year Award.   Steve served on the Chippewa SWCD Board of Supervisors from 2001 to 2013.  Steve passed away in March of 2013.

Steve was previously honored as the Conservationist of the Year in 1989.  Nokleby farmed in Mandt township in Chippewa County.  At that time, Steve used ridge till to control wind and water erosion and developed a more complete resource management system. Steve was one of the first to use no-till practices in Mandt township.   He used no-till and ridge till methods to enhance resource benefits, cut his operational expenses and save time.  Steve started farming in partnership with his dad, Arnold in 1974.  In 1989, he was recognized for other conservation practices such as farmstead windbreaks, and CRP filter strips.

Steve was active in Corn Growers Association, Soybean Growers Association, Farm Bureau and Jevnaker Lutheran church, a long-time Pioneer Seed and Precision Planting Dealer.

More recently, Steve participated in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) enrolling 250 acres of No till, Nutrient Management and Pest Management.  He also enrolled 1003.6 acres in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and completed enhancements such as using nitrogen stabilizers and doing plant tissue testing for nitrogen management

Nokleby FieldDuring his tenure on the Chippewa SWCD Board, Steve served as the Chippewa River Watershed Project Committee representative.  He was a strong supporter of the work done by the Chippewa  River Watershed Project and was an advocate for finding ways to positively impact water quality in his operation.  Steve recognized that certain practices in the agricultural community could be improved upon and was very willing to try new practices.  In 2010, Steve partnered with the Chippewa River Watershed Project on a Drainage Water Management Project.  His project included the installation of three inline water level control structures in field that had existing pattern tile.  The retrofits to the system allowed Nokleby to vary the depth of the drainage outlet thoughout the year to maximize production and lower and have more influence on the runoff water leaving his system and entering downstream waters.  Steve’s common sense approach to conservation, his valuable input at watershed meetings, and his cooperative nature made him valued partner of the Chippewa River Watershed Project.

We lost a true conservation friend, Steve Nokleby.   Our deepest condolences to his wife Susan, son, Adam, and daughter, Jessica.

 

 

Soil Demo Video

View Chippewa SWCD Soil Demonstration

In this demo both samples are mapped as J51A Bearden-Quam, were collected on the same day and air dried. The sample on the left was taken from a corn, soybean, sugar beet, and wheat rotation with conventional tillage including fall chisel and spring field cultivating. The sample on the right was taken from a wildlife management area that was planted back to native grasses 6 years ago.

Check out our Annual Report!

2016 Annual Report

 

2015 Annual Report