by Jennifer Hahn
The Lower St. Croix Watershed Partnership(LSCWP) is a One Watershed, One Plan partnership that has identified priority surface and groundwaters within its basin to reduce pollutant loading. One of the identified activities to reduce pollutants is to implement non-structural agricultural BMPs, including soil health practices. The partnership determined biannual and ten-year goals for pollution reductions. “After two years of program implementation, staff can assess the impacts the partnership is producing,” said Extension educator Jennifer Hahn.
The LSCWP, in conjunction with University of Minnesota Extension, has been working with agriculture producers one on one, holding field days and meetings, utilizing social media, mailings, and radio, creating flexible programs for farmers and landowners to improve their soil health practices.
Through outreach events and activities, the partnership reached out to producers in five counties to share the benefits of soil health practices for ag operations and natural resources. The Chisago SWCD applied for and was awarded a Clean Water Fund Soil health grant for outreach, education, and implementation of soil health practices. The partnership also utilizes Watershed Based Initiative Funding to implement practices and together, the programs created substantial impacts.
The soil health programs became extremely popular with basin producers with funds being allocated as quickly as possible. Because of the design and outreach of these programs in conjunction with education and building and enhancing of networks, there were cover crops planted, reduced tillage, strip till, no-till, and conversion of cropland to hay land and native species around the watershed.
“The pollution reduction numbers are still being calculated and more acres are being signed up, but with the current available data, we can confidently say we’re making leaps in the basin,” said Hahn.