2020 Kandiyohi County Outstanding Conservationist of the Year
                                                                  “Sandy Plains Farm, LLC”

The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) along with the support of The Farmer Magazine, offers a conservation award that recognizes groups or individuals who have shown outstanding efforts in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota’s Natural Resources. The award is recognized at the annual convention in Bloomington every December. Due to COVID restrictions, the convention did not occur.

The Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) announces the recipient of their 2020 Outstanding Conservationist, Sandy Plains Farm LLC of Regal, MN.  Sandy Plains Farm is a partnership formed between Richard Mueller, James Schroepfer and Chris Schroepfer.    Together they raise a herd of certified organic beef and grow a diverse variety of crops in the North Fork Crow River watershed.  Over the last decade, Sandy Plains Farm has created a model that combines forage crops and rotational grazing, which benefits their crops, cattle, and land.    

Sandy Plains Farm operates roughly 500 acres dedicated to crop production and 300 acres of grazing lands.  Their diverse cropping practices include a seven to nine-year crop rotation consisting of alfalfa, sweet corn, edible beans, corn, peas, soybeans and winter wheat or rye. Cover crops are also used every year to ensure the soil is never bare, reducing erosion.   The cover crops also help feed the soil, providing organic matter for soil biotics and sequestering nitrogen.  

Sandy Plains Farm strives for effective and responsible nutrient management.  With assistance from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), they have developed a nutrient management plan specific to their crops and soil conditions of each field.  This helps to ensure that every ounce of fertilizer is efficiently used by the crop.  Plant tissue testing is also used to determine nutrient levels and production needs.   An Irrigation management plan is also in place to track and document water usage on their farm for the most efficient usage of the water resource. 

The Sandy Plains farm centers around the cattle and their organic rotational grazing system they have developed on approximately 300 acres of pasture.  They are currently raising and grazing about 75 cow/calf pairs and are marketing their certified organic beef to “Organic Valley”.  Cattle are rotated every 3-4 days to new fresh grazing lands; this is possible due to the use of multi-paddocks and a watering system.   Rotating the grazing cattle frequently, ensures maximum forage growth in each paddock which results in increased growth rates for their cattle.  Healthier forage growth also means less weed pressures in the paddocks which creates less need for weed control.
Additional conservation efforts of Sandy Plains Farm include installing shelter belts and field wind breaks.  These tree row practices help protect soil resources from erosion, control snow deposition, prevent wind damage to infrastructure, provide shelter for livestock, conserve heating and cooling energy, beautify the area, along with providing an area for wildlife.  Vegetative buffer strips are another conservation tool used by Sandy Plains Farms, these strips help reduce run-off and erosion, improving water quality of the Crow River.
 
They are currently working with Federal and State wildlife conservation agencies to install and maintain wildlife food plots on public lands.  They are also working cooperatively with those agencies to graze their cattle on public lands, which helps land managers maintain and improve grassland habitat.  Periodic grazing of grasslands is an effective management tool used to enhance these prairie areas for wildlife and many rare insects and plants found in the region.

Congratulations to the 2020 Kandiyohi County Outstanding Conservationists, Sandy Plains Farm for their conservation efforts to improve the land and water resources in Kandiyohi County.   The Kandiyohi SWCD thanks Richard, James and Chris for all their past works and continued devotion to soil and water conservation efforts!
 



 

List of Outstanding Conservationists
 
 
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