Learn in conversation with local groups working for soil health and streams in the upper Midwest
Watershed Leaders Network Workshops
At our interactive, no-lecture, professionally facilitated workshops participants hear new perspectives, ask questions that matter, host conversations, tell stories of challenge and success, reflect, and identify their own next steps. It is a rich, practical way to learn.
In-Person & Digital Events
Fishers & Farmers brings you into conversations with local, farmer-driven groups working for sustainable farms and streams. Learn about their projects and challenges, how they organize, and how they’re building community around important work.
Ag broadcaster Pam Jahnke talks with Midwest neighbors who are working together for resilient farms, streams and fish. These lively, down-to-earth conversations touch on real local challenges, why people get involved, and what it means to make progress as a community.
Stories & Videos
Watershed Leaders Network stories and videos introduce you to program participants who are developing new practices, influencing communities, and renewing landscapes where they live.
Meet Local Changemakers
Search programs to find peers and see how people dive in, persist and make progress neighbor to neighbor.
- Stories & Videos
- Digital Event
- In-Person Events
- All 5 States
- Alternate crops
- Collaboration & local decision making
- Field walkovers
- Financial return
- Leased land
- Listening & personal connection
- Managed grazing
- Monitoring & data
- Nutrient retention
- Outreach & demonstrations
- Peer-to-peer leadership & learning
- Perennial cover & buffers
- Soil health & cover crops
- Stream & wetland restoration
- Upstream-downstream connection
- Urban-rural understanding
- Water retention & sediment control
- Watershed Leaders Network
- Women landowners
The Le Sueur River Watershed Network is guided by recommendations developed by a Citizen Advisory Committee in 2012 and 2013. In this video, see how people with different experiences came together to identify needs and start the hard work of change across more than 700,000 acres.
Citizens in the Le Sueur River Watershed met in 2012 to form a citizen-led group to improve watershed conditions. Meet participants and see how people with diverse experiences are working across the watershed as Le Sueur River Watershed Network.
An oxbow is a historic river bend, cut off from the main channel much of the time. Restored oxbows re-establish ecological functions and provide flood storage and habitat to fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They also process nutrients and are affordable.
Minnesota’s trout streams are treasured resources offering people outdoor recreation and excitement. Sometimes though, trout streams can have a rough time in farm country. Thanks to the work of 11 farmers in Dundas, Minnesota, water quality in Rice Creek is showing important improvements.
Brent Hoerr, president of Marion County Drainage District for 40 years, experienced a Mississippi River flood first when his family lost their home in 1973. "Floods overload agriculture, transportation and the environment, and we can minimize impact through collaboration."
At the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, farmer-driven soil health and watershed groups learned about each others’ land, crops and conservation delivery systems, social realities and challenges. Then stories, questions, dialogues, listening and local group work helped define next wise steps for work at home.
Lessons learned from seven years of monitoring and stories of three farmers are shared in this video, released in 2018.
In southwest Wisconsin, farming practices such as cover crops, contour strips and native grass strips help sustain recreational fishing that generates more than $1 billion annually for the local economy.
Blackhawk Creek carries E. coli bacteria and 2,720 tons of nitrates to the Cedar River annually. Neighbors established Blackhawk Creek Water & Soil Coalition to restore it.
Farmer Jeff Pape rallied neighbors to farm differently in Hewitt Creek Watershed, near Iowa’s Field of Dreams. “Affordable change came first. Now reaching water quality goals means more investment.
Root River Field to Stream Partnership gathered data, but more importantly, it engaged with growers and encouraged conversations among growers that led to positive changes in soil and water.
“A watershed group was worth a try," said farmer Brian McCulloh, "so I attended meetings with an open mind. It helps when neighbors struggle with the same challenges, to do better.”
Wisconsin no-tillers John Eron and Matt Hintz didn’t wait for regulations telling them how to farm. They started farmer-led watershed groups to deal directly with local environmental issues and the groups that raised them, not as adversaries, but as advocates.
Two restored Boone River oxbow wetlands on Camille Rogers' Iowa farm are part of a plan to renew more than 400 similar sites in her watershed. After eroded soil was removed, the topeka shiner minnow returned and Rogers can again enjoy a favorite natural area from her childhood.
Shoal Creek Woodlands for Wildlife, a bottom-up, self-organized group of local landowners and collaborators, connected neighbors and jumpstarted rapid adoption of conservation practices across the watershed.
Heidi Keuler, Fishers & Farmers’ coordinator, and Clark Porter, Middle Cedar Watershed farmer/Iowa Department of Agriculture environmental specialist, discuss outreach with an Upper Mississippi River Region League of Women Voters host.
Hear how producer John Scherder and MDC Fisheries regional lead Chris Williamson connected and turned a ripple of interest into a wave of cover crop adoption in Peno Creek Watershed.
Learn how a diverse leadership team refocused to bring new relevance to Seven Mile Creek Watershed Partnership after 20 years of activity and evolution.
Becky Taylor leads learning circles for women landowners, and tells how they work and impact land. Gabrielle McNally, Women for the Land program director, is expanding learning circles nationwide.
Learn how flood damage and high Nitrogen counts led Cedar Rapids’ Utilities Director Mike Kunst and farm owner Clark Porter into a web of connection and action.
“You bring lake people to my farm, and I'll bring farmers to your lakes,' said John Eron to lakeshore landowner Rick Georgeson. The upstream/downstream friendship now inspires conservation innovation.
A 2008 conversation made conservation easier in Rachel Hopkins’ watershed. “There wasn’t much trust between farmers and conservationists,” she says, “but we said what bugged us and formed a farmer-led committee.”
Farmer Tony Peirick and lakeshore owner Bill Boettge dreaded a nonpoint source work group they feared would be a shouting match. They now work together protecting Dodge County lakes and streams.
“We wanted to collaborate with farmers,” said Missouri Department of Conservation's Chris Williamson, "but we didn’t know how. So instead of developing a program and trying to pitch it, we listened.”
For years 47 farmers in three small southeast Minnesota watersheds collaborated to monitor water and nutrient movement on their land, and to minimize soil and nutrient loss with targeted on-farm work.
Jo Daviess County Soil & Water Health Coalition’s members meet monthly to discuss soil health. The welcoming circle is bringing their community alive with interest in its land and streams.
Farmer-Led Council members representing diverse cropping systems, diverse crops, and conventional and organic approaches are working together to meet local goals for farms and water.
Hear how Iowa's Black Hawk Creek Soil & Water Coalition began, what's worked (and hasn't), and how they're building a sustainable basin-wide initiative.
A 14-inch brook trout is a trophy in most waters, but in a small Minnesota stream in farm country it's noteworthy. Rice Creek brook trout thrive because upstream farmers made changes.
For two days in Hannibal, Missouri, 45 participants explored the question: What’s needed now to engage more farmers and landowners in actively caring about streams and water quality? Participants shared their own diverse experiences and knowledge in a series of conversations, then supported each other in identifying next wise steps for work at home.