Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
A packed auditorium of farmers, local residents and government officials from across the state came together for Governor Dayton’s second annual Town Hall Water Summit, held on the campus of University of Minnesota-Morris in late January.
Among the day’s events was a panel on the “Food and Water Nexus”, or the relationship between agriculture and water quality. Lauren Biegler, who farms with her husband Bryan in Lake Wilson, Minn., was one of five individuals on the panel. The Bieglers raise corn and soybeans, and also have a custom cover cropping business.
Biegler shared their farms’ experience in moving to a conservation tillage system, in which they utilize cover crops. The family made these changes to help better conserve their soil, and reduce soil and nutrient loss.
“It’s an entire management system change and it takes planning. It’s not something that can just be adopted at the snap of a finger,” Biegler says. “We thought about this for years before we actually had the opportunity to make the change.”
It took the Bieglers more than three years of planning and preparation on their family farm before they could fully implement the tillage system adjustments. Biegler believes a broad-scale transition to conservation tillage is coming to row crop agriculture.
“It seems to be a trend that farmers are moving toward,” says Biegler. “We did double the amount of cover crop acres (custom planting for other farmers) this past year, compared to the year before. We did a few hundred acres of custom strip till work last year, and this year it was nearly two thousand acres.”
Many farmers, like the Bieglers, are investigating ways to do their part to improve water quality through conservation farming methods. Biegler told the audience that cost is a key concern for farmers, noting that their strip till equipment cost nearly as much as their house.
“We’re always look for ways we can improve and be sustainable,” says Biegler. “And that means both environmentally and financially sustainable. We need both in order to be successful.”