WILLMAR — Sandy Plains Farm LLC near Regal has been named the Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District’s Outstanding Conservationist for 2020.

The farm, which raises certified organic beef and a diverse variety of crops in the North Fork Crow River watershed, is a partnership between Richard Mueller, James Schroepfer and Chris Schroepfer.

Over the last decade, Sandy Plains Farm has created a model that combines forage crops and rotational grazing, which benefits their crops, cattle and land, according to the SWCD.

Diverse cropping practices on the farm’s 500 acres of cropland include a seven- to nine-year crop rotation consisting of alfalfa, sweet corn, edible beans, corn, peas, soybeans and winter wheat or rye. Cover crops are used every year to ensure the soil is never bare, which reduces erosion and provides organic matter.

With assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Sandy Plains developed a nutrient management plan to ensure that fertilizer is efficiently used by crops, and implemented an irrigation management plan that documents water usage.

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The Sandy Plains farm raises approximately 75 cow/calf pairs on 300 acres of pasture, using an organic rotational grazing system that moves cattle to new grazing land every three to four days. They market their certified organic beef to Organic Valley.

Additional conservation efforts of Sandy Plains Farm include installing shelter belts and field windbreaks and vegetative buffer strips.

They are currently working with federal and state wildlife conservation agencies to install and maintain wildlife food plots on public lands and are working cooperatively with those agencies to graze their cattle on public lands.

The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, with the support of The Farmer magazine, offers the conservation award that recognizes groups or individuals who have shown outstanding efforts in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota’s natural resources.

The award is recognized at the annual convention in Bloomington every December, but because of COVID-19, the convention did not occur.