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Year Two of Farmer-Company Partnerships

November 16th, 2017

As someone who is working on Field Stewards, calling farmers, and running the numbers—I’m excited to tell you about impacts and outcomes in our second year!

First, you might be asking yourself, what is Field Stewards? Environmental Initiative, Conservation Marketplace Midwest, the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Kieser and Associates developed Field Stewards as a way to reward farmers who go above and beyond in their care of our natural resources. By providing a way for food companies to provide financial incentives to farmers who protect water quality on their farmland, we are investing in conservation leadership and a higher quality of life for communities across Minnesota.


Before we get to this year’s accomplishments, I’m going to tell you about our first year.

In 2016, we…

  • Paid 15 Stearns County farmers who maintain a high level of environmental protection on their 2015 fields
  • Enrolled 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans that meet a high threshold for water quality – using practices like precision nutrient management, conservation tillage, and cover crops

So, what’s happened during Field Stewards’ second year? We’ve been busy, and in 2017, we…

  • Distributed payments to 25 farmers who met the threshold for water quality protection across their entire farm in 2016
  • Enrolled 2,000 acres of corn and soybean fields– double from the previous year

Quite the increase, right? We’re thankful for our partners, farmers, and food companies for making this year more impactful than the last. Payments to farmers were made possible by funding from Pilgrim’s Pride poultry company– an investment in the Stearns County community where their employees live, work and play.


However, we know we still have a long way to go. As of 2012, there were 757,637 acres in crop production in Stearns County, so this is just a start for rewarding conservation leadership. And that’s only Stearns County! As Field Stewards continues to grow, we’ll have a whole state and region to work with.

Currently, we are talking to other companies who are interested in investing in sustainable agricultural supply chains and the natural resources of their communities. If you are interested in giving your company a sustainability boost, improving quality of life where your food production happens, or getting more information, talk to Greg Bohrer, who leads the Field Stewards program.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Field Stewards continues to create farmer-company partnerships that support those who go above and beyond for water quality. If you want to learn more about Field Stewards, visit our website at www.FieldStewards.org.

Erin Niehoff


Project Associate

Watch for Minnesota Environmental Fund at Work

September 8th, 2016

I first heard about Minnesota Environmental Fund (MEF) while I was working at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2013. October was the start of the Community Fund Drive, an event where university departments and employees competed against each other to see who could donate the most in a short amount of time. MEF was one of the workplace giving options at the time, but that was all I knew.MEF_logo_web

Now that I’ve started working at Environmental Initiative, I know a lot more about MEF and workplace giving. Here are some of the highlights that I’ve learned about so far:

  • Giving to MEF is like giving to a bunch of different causes. Donations help support clean water, clean air, healthy food, natural lands and wildlife. The 21 member organizations—including Environmental Initiative—all work to protect Minnesota’s environment, and they all see a portion of each donation.
  • People can give at work, choosing to donate once or with each payroll check. It’s an easy process, and means you are supporting the environment all year long.
  • More than 100 companies, nonprofit organizations, cities, colleges and schools across Minnesota offer MEF as a payroll deduction option.
  • All of the money donated stays here in Minnesota and is used to protect Minnesota’s environment.

Sound interesting to you? Many workplaces hold fall campaigns to encourage employees to give, and MEF may be one of those giving options. You can view MEF’s Workplace Partners here, and be on the lookout for information from your employer. I know I’m happy Environmental Initiative offers me this choice!

You’ll likely see an email or flyer in your office with information on where and how to donate. Your workplace giving campaign is typically the time to sign up to give, either for a one-time gift or for continuous payroll deductions. You can choose to donate to specific member organizations within MEF or have your contribution dispersed to the entire group for a larger impact.

Some of you may have workplace giving, but not have MEF as an option. In this case, you will have the option to write in “Minnesota Environmental Fund.” If you want to do even more to support the environment in Minnesota, you can talk to your human resources or community relations department about setting up MEF as a payroll deduction option. Feel free to talk to MEF’s Executive Director Cordelia Pierson to work on setting that up.

We’re grateful to all who donate to MEF. Your contribution helps support Environmental Initiative’s work and the larger environmental community in Minnesota. Thank you!

Erin Niehoff


Project Associate

Mississippi River Refresh for Earth Day

April 27th, 2016

To celebrate Earth Day, Environmental Initiative got out of the office for a few hours to support the Minnesota Environmental Fund’s Mississippi River Refresh clean up event. Our five staff members worked on cleaning up the riverfront area from the North Loop playground at 4th Avenue to Bassett Creek.

We moved through bushes and around trees, down steep slopes and back up, picking up all sorts of trash. Among the bottles and styrofoam, some of the gems we found included the front end of an old tricycle and part of the top of an old stove. We even found a geocache — though you have to go find that yourself!

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.


Erin Niehoff


Project Associate

Meet Erin Niehoff, Project and Administrative Assistant

April 25th, 2016

Hi there! I’m Erin Niehoff, Environmental Initiative’s new Project & Administrative Assistant, and I’m thrilled to be joining this amazing team.

Growing up in Connecticut, my first job was in the fast food industry. Though our store collected plastics for recycling in our IMG_3104webfood preparation area, the customer space did not provide recycling bins. After I noticed customers tossing water and soda bottles in the trash, I asked the store’s owner if we could place a recycling container at the front of the store. He agreed, and soon our store was saving three large bags of bottles from going to the landfill every week.

I expanded my environmental focus when I left Connecticut to attend the University of Minnesota. I earned my B.S. in Geography, concentrating on environmental systems. After serving a year with the Minnesota Math Corps, tutoring 4th through 8th grade students in math at a Minneapolis school, I headed back to the University of Minnesota to continue my own education. In May 2015, I earned my Master of Science in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, specifically focusing on water policy. During my time at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, I worked on research projects around water reuse for the Minnesota Department of Health and for a law firm in Minneapolis. After graduation, I completed a post-graduate fellowship at the Oregon Department of State Lands, where I reviewed part of their administrative rules governing the removal and fill of material from waters of the state, providing recommendations for improvement.

Now I am back in the great state of Minnesota and I am looking forward to supporting the needs of various projects and programs here at Environmental Initiative!

Erin Niehoff


Project Associate

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