Action Stories

Renovating a drainage ditch got Minnesota farmer Pat Duncanson thinking beyond his field edges, eventually leading to involvement in Minnesota’s Le Sueur River Watershed Partnership.

Lakeshore owner demands for buffers led Watertown, Wisconsin farmer Tony Peirick to help start Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil-Healthy Water—in part to help reduce phosphorous entering a lake.

Getting involved in the formation of the Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council just made sense to Viroqua, Wisconsin farmer Brian McCulloh.

“We’ve been here 35 years and have witnessed runoff,” says McCulloh. “I thought a watershed group was worth paying attention to, so I attended meetings with an open mind and have continued going. We have more questions than answers, but what helps us is having fellow producers try things and struggle with the same things we did.”

Emerging farmer-led trend

All three farmers are part of an emerging trend in agriculture: Farmer-led groups dedicated to soil and water health. Members of these grassroots organizations are often on the leading edge of changes in conservation practices, from water management to reduced tillage and cover crops. If not yet changing their own practices, they are seeking ringside seats to evaluate and adopt new techniques as they are proven at the local level. This includes the water storage Duncanson installed on his tile lines; the planting green practice that Peirick started three years ago; and the cover crops that McCulloh is using to break up hard pans instead of tillage.

While farmer-led groups are not new, what is new are the support systems they are finding and the impact those supports have on longevity and the groups’ impacts….FULL STORY CONTINUED at

— Story by Jim Ruen

Pontoon boat rides provided by a local lake association provide Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil-Healthy Water members with a first-hand look at the value of water quality. Such meet and greets between farmers and lake association members has created good will and financial support for farmer-led conservation efforts.

Fishers & Farmers Partnership’s Watershed Leaders Network workshops offer local groups led by farm operators, landowners, and land managers a place to learn from each other and gather in an environment of respect and trust. Local teams often include ag retailers, SWCD board members, watershed project coordinators, fishers and hunters who value time to think together and identify next wise steps for their local work. See views of the August 2018 workshop in Hannibal, Missouri here.