Fishers and Farmers: combining sustainable farming and proper water management

Maintaining water quality is a top concern across the ag industry.

In Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, thousands of miles of streams and rivers meander through farmland. Lynn Ketelsen tells us about an effort that is reeling in positive results in a trout stream.

A nearly 14 inch brook trout is a trophy in most waters, but coming from a small stream in Minnesota farm country, it is even more noteworthy.

This creek is showing water quality improvements in part because farmers upstream have made changes to farming practices. Some of those changes have been supported by a program called Fishers and Farmers.

“Fishers and Farmers partnership is an alliance of agricultural and conservation organizations that have come together to help local groups align to do the work of sustainable farms and sustainable streams at the same time,” Nancy North with the Watershed Leaders Network states.

David Legvold grew up on this farm along the banks of Rice Creek near Northfield. After spending years away, he returned as an adult and started farming the land. He immediately switched to no-till farming and in recent years began including cover crops.

“This creek, of course being Rice County’s last trout stream, is valuable for that reason, but it also is a tributary of the Mississippi River,” Legvold notes, “That means that whatever we do here goes down stream, and eventually heads to the Gulf of Mexico. So nitrates, silt, all sorts of other agricultural chemicals are our responsibility.”

Legvold says that farming and resource conservation can work hand-in-hand and can be both environmentally and economically sustainable. Rice Creek, with its healthy trout population, serves as a shining example.

“When it comes to conservation and preserving water quality for a stream like this, your heart has to say, ‘yes. I want to do this,’” Legvold adds. “If you pocketbook says, ‘who cares we’ve got to get the crop in,’ then I think we’ve lost sight of one of our valuable resources which is good water, pleasant fishing and the ability to point to something and say, ‘people have taken care of this resource.’”

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