STEELE COUNTY — A unique public-private-nonprofit collaborative with a mission to combine agriculture, conservation, and economics to help improve water quality within the Cannon River Watershed has been formed.
The Cannon River Agricultural Collaborative was created with the vision of prosperous farms, healthy soils, clean water, a thriving agricultural system, and vibrant communities in the watershed that covers parts of Steele County, as well as Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, Rice, and Waseca counties. The collaborative is a partnership between the Cannon River One Watershed One Plan, Cannon River Watershed Partnership, Central Farm Service, Environmental Initiative, Great River Greening, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, Rice County SWCD, and Steele County SWCD.
“CFS is involved in collaboratives like this one because we work closely with farmers and the data they collect,” said Sienna Kampsen with Central Farm Service. “We are able to help our growers measure the impact of certain sustainable practices and we feel that being a part of this group helps us and them go full circle and utilize programs that other partners here are involved in, such as the [Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program].”
Agriculture is the major land use within the Cannon River Watershed and the collaborative’s purpose is to help farmers plan, assess, and implement farming practices that are both economically and environmentally beneficial, improving the soil, water, and economic health of their farms.
Using each member organization’s strengths and abilities, the partners will work with farmers in the watershed to provide technical assistance and implement agricultural practices that address water quality issues, effectively serving as a “one-stop shop” where farmers can get assistance and resources.
In turn, the farmers can become certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The program rewards farmers for implementing practices that help improve water quality by offering specially designated technical and financial assistance and regulatory certainty for a period of 10 years.
“Cannon River Watershed Partnership sees this opportunity to collaborate more formally with government agencies, private business, and other non-profits as a way to better serve the farmers in our area,” said Kristi Pursell, the executive director of the Cannon River Watershed Partnership. “There are many growers in the watershed who are leading the way on putting sustainable practices in place and through this unique partnership we can better support and then recognize their leadership.”
The collaborative also recognizes farmers for their stewardship efforts and will work to share their success to demonstrate the economic benefits of practices that protect and improve soil health and water quality.
“This collaborative helps to create a win-win-win-win,” added Pursell. “There will be more soil health practices on the land, cleaner water, more land certified under Minnesota’s Ag Water Quality Program, and greater profitability by the farms in the watershed that are certified.”