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Posts Tagged ‘water quality’

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.

FIELD STEWARDS BY THE NUMBERS

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.

NEXT STEPS

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

POSTED BY:

Project Associate

Rice Creek Commons is Common Sense— Meet the Natural Resource Winners

April 25th, 2017

The Natural Resources category award is given to collaborative efforts that implement sustainable solutions to preserve, protect, or restore Minnesota’s land, water, biological diversity, and other natural resources.

In the land of 10,000 lakes, you can see why recognizing efforts to restore waterways and landscapes is so important.

Ramsey County, the City of Arden Hills, Wenck Associates, Inc. and many other partners are currently working to restore a piece of polluted land that has been around since World War II: The Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.

AMMUNITION PLANT TO  VIBRANT COMMUNITY

 

 

Four years ago, Ramsey County purchased a contaminated parcel of land in Arden Hills with the goal of making it a community asset. The land once held the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, built to manufacture small arms ammunition during World War II, and had sat dormant for nearly four decades. Partnering with the City of Arden Hills, the county began redeveloping the brownfield into a livable space for homes and businesses.

Over a 32-month period, existing buildings were demolished, and the soil was remediated to residential standards. We removed hazardous waste and recycled or reused materials like concrete and asphalt. This past summer, the county collaborated with the Rice Creek Watershed District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to transform Rice Creek, which runs through the site, back to its original, meandering path and stabilize it with surrounding trees and plants.

With the site demolished and soil restored to residential standards, infrastructure construction is set to begin this year. Soon Rice Creek Commons (named after the site’s stream) will be a walkable, vibrant commercial and residential development, creating economic and social opportunity for Arden Hills and the region.

FROM THE PROJECT PARTNERS

“When the county purchased the land, it was the largest superfund site in Minnesota. The large cost and difficulty associated with cleaning up the site had discouraged previous developers for many years. Because the property presented unique challenges, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners recognized the land would probably stay polluted and empty for many more years unless they took action.

The project is also unique in that Ramsey County is a fully developed county. With few opportunities to grow and increase the area’s tax base, developments like Rice Creek Commons present an important opportunity for economic development.” – Heather Worthington, Deputy County Manager

“I’m proud that this project respects the history of the site and what was there before. Redeveloping the area is about honoring its past and making it a safe, economic engine once again.” – Heather Worthington, Deputy County Manager

Read the Pioneer Press piece: A cheer for Rice Creek Commons »

CELEBRATE THIS EFFORT

Join us on Thursday, May 25 to congratulate and celebrate these project partners, their positive environmental outcomes, and the lasting benefit of collaboration. To shake things up, we’re also honoring three individuals in honor of our 25th anniversary, so it’s sure to be a night of reflection and festivities for Minnesota’s environmental community. Purchase your tickets or tables here »

 


A note from Environmental Initiative:
In honor of Environmental Initiative’s 25th Anniversary, four organizational and two individual awards will be presented on May 25, 2017 at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Get your tickets before they’re gone »

Damian Goebel

POSTED BY:

Communications Director

Growing Clean Water at the ACES Conference

December 14th, 2016

There’s been a lot happening in Environmental Initiative’s Agriculture and Environment program lately—I mean a lot. Field Stewards continues to build momentum and we’ve been hard at work bringing together agricultural interests to talk about and collaborate on creating new opportunities to improve water quality.

ACESBecause of Environmental Initiative’s work to promote market solutions for clean water through Field Stewards, I was asked to speak at the ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services conference in Jacksonville, Florida, which was held last week. Besides having the opportunity to share our work with an exciting, growing community of practitioners, I got to learn from others around the country on how to link science, practice, and sustainable decision making in ecosystem services. (The term “ecosystem services” is meant to describe the ways humans benefit from functioning ecosystems. Pollination is an example of an ecosystem service).

ACES 2016 brought together leaders in government, NGOs, academia, Native American tribes, and the private sector to advance the use of ecosystem services science and practice in environmental decision making and practice.

MY THREE TAKEAWAYS

1. The science is there (mostly). Ecosystem services is a way of looking at how natural processes and landscapes contribute human health, economy, and quality of life. In recent years, the science and tools available for estimating ecosystem services have gotten much better and there is more confidence in how we are using them.

2. Agriculture has a huge role to play. If you want to have an impact, go work with farmers. But be ready to listen.download film Mother’s Day

3. Ecosystem services is a new way to make money. I heard from a speaker about how a custom made municipal bond that funded the creation of green landscapes in DC was bought by Goldman Sachs. Goldman didn’t invest because it looked good on their corporate sustainability report, they bought it because it made them money (sort of a big part of their business model).

Along with Paul Helgeson from GNP Company, I shared information about our Field Stewards program, particularly how the idea of a whole-farm, holistic approach to water quality protection is good for farmers, good for food companies, and good for the environment. We are doing things a little different with Field Stewards, and there is a lot of interest in how our approach can crack the nut of untraceable commodity crop supply chains. You can learn more about the ACES conference here »

Greg Bohrer

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

MAWQCP: Protecting Agricultural Water Quality Through Certification and Collaboration

July 6th, 2016

All Minnesotans want access to clean water and all Minnesota farmers want clean water to be part of their legacy.

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a new, voluntary, state-federal program that offers Minnesota’s farmers the chance to certify their legacy of stewardship and protect the Land of 10,000 Lakes’ greatest natural resource. After a brief pilot phase, MAWQCP went statewide in July 2015. Since then, the program has certified 198 farms and we just recently celebrated a 100,000-acre milestone for the program.

The program’s unique structure is crucial to its success. MAWQCP is delivered in partnership with Minnesota’s 89 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) and it’s easy for farmers and landowners to navigate. Minnesota’s SWCDs are trusted partners and frequent collaborators among the state’s farmers. The process for getting certified is straightforward and personalized – all a farmer needs to do to get started is contact their local SWCD.family next to farmstead sign

There are four steps to the water quality certification process:

  • Assessment – a certification specialist conducts an assessment of a farm’s current risk to water quality on a field-by-field basis using an online tool;
  • Collaboration – the certification specialist meets with the farmer to go over the results of the baseline assessment and collaborates on a plan for mitigating any risks to water identified in the assessment;
  • Verification – the certification specialist conducts a field verification to ensure all risks to water quality have been treated, or that a plan is in place to address the risk;
  • Ongoing Support – the certification specialist and farmer stay in touch as the farmer continues to make improvements and changes.

The process is not one-size fits all. When risks to water quality are identified, farmers are eligible to receive priority technical and financial assistance to make the improvements that make the most sense, economically and environmentally, for their operation. Once they are certified, farmers and landowners receive regulatory certainty and are deemed to be in compliance with any new water quality laws or rules for 10 years.

Traditionally, conservation has been delivered in a piecemeal fashion with a farmer implementing one conservation practice at a time. While individual practices can provide real environmental benefits, they often don’t treat all the risks to water quality on a farm all at once. MAWQCP’s model of conservation delivery overcomes this shortfall. The program works in collaboration with farmers and addresses risks to water quality for every field and every crop on their operations. This field-by-field, crop-by-crop methodology allows small acts of conservation to aggregate quickly, creating meaningful water quality benefits for all Minnesotans.

To date, the program has generated more than 300 new conservation practices, from cover crops to improved nutrient management that are annually:

  • Stopping 7.7 million pounds of sediment from entering our waters,
  • Preventing more than 4,700 pounds of phosphorus from entering our lakes and streams, and
  • Keeping more than 10 million pounds of soil where it belongs, in Minnesota fields.

As more farmers learn about the program and become certified, its positive impact on Minnesota will continue to grow. MAWQCP will help ensure Minnesota’s farms and waters can prosper together, which is a legacy all Minnesotans can be proud of.

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A note from Environmental Initiative:

We’ve partnered with MAWQCP through our Field Stewards program. Farmers who are certified through MAWQCP (currently only in Stearns County) are eligible to receive a per acre payment for their conservation practices by enrolling in Field Stewards. This partnership with MAWQCP avoids duplicate certification standards and ensures farmers are recognized and rewarded for their conservation efforts. Learn more about Field Stewards »

MAWQCP is a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Learn more about MAWQCP »

POSTED BY:

Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program Manager, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Conservation and Environmental Protection on Minnesota’s Farms

August 27th, 2015

On August 12, I joined farm conservation professionals from across the country for a tour of farms in southeast Minnesota, organized by the (1).dsc_6573Conservation Technology Information Center. Any chance to get out in the field is great, and this tour in particular helped showcase what farmers, of all different types, are doing to help protect water quality, improve soil health, and ensure the continued economic integrity of their operations.

Our first stop was a vegetable farming cooperative in Hastings, MN that is run by the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA). Specialty crops depend on pollinators for good yields. If a pollinator doesn’t get to that squash blossom, you aren’t getting any squash. HAFA is partnering with Dr. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab to establish beehives onsite that can help pollinate the diverse vegetable crops HAFA is growing. The bees get access to food, and the farmers see healthier yields. A win-win. Plus, honey!

Our tour continued on to a VERY different operation. Where the HAFA farm was small and the crops diverse, Bruce Peterson’s farm was what you’d think of when you think of the contemporary corn farmer. From a small farm started in 1930, the Peterson operation has grown to 6,000 acres, 5,000 hogs a year, and 20 steers. This farm is about efficiency on a grand scale, using tools that farmers could only dream of just a decade ago. Working with precision farming experts from DuPont Pioneer, the Petersons are putting down fertilizer in the right place, at the right time, in the right amount to maximize crop yields while minimizing any lost nitrogen. Every pound of nitrogen that doesn’t get taken up by the plant has to go somewhere – into the ditch, the groundwater, or the air. That’s a financial loss too, since fertilizer costs money. So by using precision tools across the farm, the Petersons are saving money while protecting the environment. Another win-win. (more…)

Greg Bohrer

POSTED BY:

Senior Manager, Agriculture and Environment Program

Member of the Month: Barr Engineering

October 1st, 2014

Barr Engineering Company is honored to be featured as Environmental Initiative’s member of the month. Reading the profiles of other featured members, it’s heartening to see how many companies and individuals, like us, have worked with Environmental Initiative since its early days and remain committed to its goals and objectives. That’s a key reason we’ve stay engaged with the organization for nearly two decades—for the opportunities it offers to work with a diverse group of members and address environmental issues we all care deeply about.

While Barr provides a range of engineering and environmental consulting services for clients nationwide, we’re well-known locally for helping clients preserve and improve water quality as well as develop best practices for water conservation and use. To us, sponsoring a water sustainability session in November as part of Environmental Initiative’s Business & Environment series just makes sense. Headquartered in Minnesota for nearly half a century, we can’t help but appreciate ideas and initiatives that make sense, like so many of Environmental Initiative’s efforts.Surley Brewing Construction Site

Because water isn’t our clients’ only concern, our projects with them run the gamut of sustainability issues—from alternative and renewable energy resources to ecological site restoration, from air quality compliance to brownfields redevelopment, which is the ultimate in recycling. We’ve helped clients win more than $22 million in brownfields grant funds to bring new life to former industrial sites, including the Surly destination brewery under construction in Minneapolis.

When we began collecting our thoughts for this piece, we were initially disconcerted by how they seemed to echo those expressed in the profiles of other members. Thinking about it, we realized these similarities reveal not so much our lack of imagination as our shared commitment to developing creative solutions to environmental problems through our work with Environmental Initiative.

We’re proud to support Environmental Initiative’s efforts to promote collaboration and interaction—but, more importantly, to be a catalyst for turning thoughts into actions and discussions into environmental solutions. We look forward to continuing our involvement and service.

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A note from Environmental Initiative:
Mike Hansel is a Senior Chemical Engineer and Vice President at Barr Engineering as well as member of Environmental Initiative’s Board of Directors. Each month, we feature information about one of our members on the Initiative blog and on our website. Contact Sacha Seymour-Anderson anytime at 612-334-3388 ext. 101 to learn more about this membership benefit.

Mike Hansel

POSTED BY:

Vice President, Senior Chemical Engineer - Barr Engineering

Weekly Wrap-Up – 10/11/13

October 11th, 2013

This week’s wrap-up is all about water – from scarcity, to treatment, to invasive species. What water issues should we be thinking about as we plan our events and projects? What water news caught your attention this week? Share with us here or connect with us on social media.

  1. Water from PolyMet mine site would require 500 years of treatment. (Duluth News Tribune)
  2. Microplastic waste is a problem for lakes as well as oceans. (Nature World News)
  3. Asian carp: Can we solve this invasive species problem? (MinnPost)
  4. United Nations chief warns of water scarcity worldwide. (Inter Press Service News Agency)
  5. Is White Bear Lake a symptom of larger water supply problems in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area? (MinnPost)
Emily Franklin

POSTED BY:

Director of Communications

Upcoming Event: Watershed Solutions Summit 2012

March 8th, 2012

A note from Environmental Initiative: Today we’re pleased to welcome Jill Crafton as the Initiative’s newest guest blogger, to provide a preview of the Watershed Solutions Summit 2012. Our staff are looking forward to attending the event next weekend, and getting a chance to discuss with stakeholders from all over the state how we can collaboratively develop solutions to improve Minnesota’s water quality. We hope to see some of our readers, partners, and friends there!

Please join us at the Watershed Solutions Summit 2012 as we learn about pressing threats and innovative water projects, and ask our presenters: how do we move from policy and planning to watershed solutions for water conservation, management, ground water, water quality, habitat and production?  From cities to farms – we all play a role in water quality outcomes.

(more…)

POSTED BY:

Executive Board Member and Great Lakes Committee Chair, Izaak Walton League

2012 Minnesota DNR Roundtable Recap

January 17th, 2012

Mike Harley and I attended the 2012 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Roundtable event on January 6th and 7th at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Saint Paul.  In the day’s opening address given by Governor Mark Dayton, the critical role that natural resources and outdoor recreation play in the state’s identity was highlighted as a top priority of the current administration.  He identified the inauguration of the governor’s pheasant opener this year as evidence of his personal commitment to protecting and enhancing the state’s natural resources.  The governor also stressed the administration’s strong and ongoing interest in addressing aquatic invasive species (AIS), a common theme throughout the roundtable event. (more…)

Mark Lundgren

POSTED BY:

Director of Environmental Projects

Clean Water on a Heart and Soul Level: Policy Forum Recap

November 11th, 2011

A group of nearly 100 water quality experts and stakeholders joined the conversation this past Monday for our third policy forum of the year, “Working Together to Achieve Healthy Waters” at St. Cloud State University.

One thing that jumped out at me right away was the energy in the room as people arrived. It felt like a meeting of old friends. The engagement of people in the room on the “heart and soul level” for clean water that our friend and panelist Craig Lieser pointed out was certainly evident throughout the day in the energy and engagement of participants.

For those of you that could not make it out to the event, I want to share some takeaways and summary points that our excellent moderator Louis Smith kindly recapped at the end of the day. Here, in no particular order, were some of the key points from the day:

(more…)

Mark Lundgren

POSTED BY:

Director of Environmental Projects
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