Each year Clean River Partners (formerly Cannon River Watershed Partnership) honors people who have taken exceptional steps to help keep the Cannon and Straight rivers, area lakes, and groundwater clean with the Cannon River Champion Award.
This year’s award-winners include Minnesota state Rep. Todd Lippert, Goodhue County farmers Kaleb and Angie Anderson, and Keepsake Cidery owners Nate Watters and Tracy Jonkman.
“This year’s award recipients exemplify the partnership it takes to move the needle for clean water. I look forward to watching how they will continue to drive change for a better future in Southeastern Minnesota,” said Clean River Partners Executive Director Kristi Pursell.
Lippert is a Minnesota State Representative, representing the Northfield area in the Minnesota House of Representatives. In 2021, he wrote and advocated for legislation that is now providing $5.5 million to help farmers implement healthy soil practices planting like cover crops and perennial crops. Land use practices like these reduce fertilizer and sediment runoff from fields and keep rivers and lakes cleaner.
The Andersons operate Belle Creek Cattle, a third-generation grass-fed beef farm near Goodhue, Minnesota. In their words, “We will not compromise or degrade an already degraded resource (the soil)! All activities need to improve upon our resources for future generations. We are what we eat and what we eat comes from the soil.”
The Andersons demonstrate their values by their collaboration in planting, researching, grazing, and harvesting Kernza®. This new perennial grain has 10- foot-deep roots giving it the capacity to reduce nitrate leaching into groundwater, reduce erosion and build soil carbon, while also producing grain for human consumption and forage for livestock without needing to be replanted for 3-4 years.
Watters and Jonkman operate Keepsake Ciders near Dundas, and practice regenerative farming on their Woodskeep Apple Orchard. They host local events at their farm and donate a portion of their profits to clean water groups in the region. Watters also serves on the Clean River Partners External Committee and helps plan educational and outreach events for the organization.