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The Future is Green

by Ashley Broussard, Agriculture and Water Outreach AmeriCorps Member with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture through Conservation Corps’ Individual Placement program

When I think back to my very first day in the office, it seems crazy to me just how much my opinions and perspective on agriculture have changed. A key function of my position is to assist with the Minnesota Water Quality Certification Program. I remember my first couple of weeks I thought I was going to have to persuade farmers heavily on the benefits of certification and adopting best management practices. When COVID-19 first hit, I spent a lot of time virtually connecting with farmers and adding their stories to the MAWQCP story map. My purpose for getting these stories was to help convince others to pursue certification. However, I found it interesting that the farmers had a different agenda.

Many wanted to write a story because they felt farmers often were given a bad reputation. Their reasoning for the story was because it would be a way for the public to see that there are farmers out there who are trying their best to take care of the land. One farmer from Rock County explained to me that most people he knows want to make their business sustainable. They often want to pass their operation down to the next generation; so, it’s imperative they leave their land in good shape. Their livelihoods depend on the land and the hardest part for them is knowing how to incorporate some of the changes that need to be made to improve soil health.

Coming from a big city, I had never thought about it like that. After attending many soil health seminars, I found this attitude to be true. Farmers in attendance who had harmful practices, such as conventional tillage, could recognize there was a problem with how they managed their land. Often, the problem was not knowing how they could cut erosion without facing financial hardship as the equipment can be extremely expensive. Many felt they could not take the risk of reducing crop yield after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment.

Despite this barrier, from what I have seen, I am confident the future of agriculture is green. The attitude and will from the farmers are there. Many new programs are coming to help reduce this financial strain. Some Soil and Water Conservation Districts are offering equipment rentals on expensive tools to help farmers try a piece of equipment before making the financial commitment to buy it. Groups such as the MN Soil Heal Coalition, offer mentorship programs where farmers can connect with others who have been successful in adopting conservative agriculture practices. This allows farmers to hear what has and has not worked, providing a little more sense of security before trying something new themselves.