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Ficks are 'outstanding conservationists'

Lead Summary
Lori Sorenson

Tom and Jodi Fick, Luverne, were honored as Outstanding Conservationists of the Year at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Dec. 12-14 in Bloomington. 
They were selected by the Rock Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for the award, which recognizes individuals and organizations for outstanding accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota’s natural resources.
“Tom was recognized for a variety of conservation practices,” said Doug Bos of the Rock County Land Management Office in Luverne.
He said some of those practices include utilizing a “robust crop rotation” of alfalfa, oats, clover, corn and beans along with kernza perennial wheat.
“This has helped to build soil health and create a more resilient farming system than the traditional corn and soybean monoculture,” Bos said.
To maintain and improve on this crop rotation, he said Fick has been transitioning from traditional tillage to minimum till and eventually no-till on the contour, along with utilizing a seven-species cover crop mix to keep the ground covered as long as possible. 
“Tom serves as a mentor for farmers wanting to adopt soil health practices,” Bos said.
For example, he hosted three cover crop field days on his farm, has done multiple podcasts and social media videos and posts for cover crops and soil health, and participates in the soil health event at the Rock County fair.
“It’s nice to get recognized,” Fick said Monday. “I just keep doing the things out here that I’m doing because it seems to be helping.”
He said he recognizes the importance of sharing his story with the agriculture community, because many farmers have not yet tried and realized the benefits of regenerative farming.
“As we drive around the local area, it’s still a little disheartening to see all the tillage being done. You wonder why they’re doing that,” Fick said.
“Even if they tried reduced tillage or cover crops in the past, they could try it again. The benefits of it take a long time, but once you see the benefits, you realize you can afford the input costs.”
While local fields have a long way to go, he said he’s encouraged by progress.
“I do see other areas where cover crops, strip-till and no-till practices are being implemented for the first time,” he said.
Fick is on the board of directors of the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, whose mission is “producer driven education and outreach” to exchange information and promote soil health practices.
He’s also a farmer mentor for the coalition in southwest Minnesota.
As a local and statewide voice, Fick said he keeps encouraging producers to start practices that improve soil health.
“Learn what you can about it. Try what you can on your farm on a small scale,” he said. “There are plenty of ways to make it work on your farm. You can come up with excuses all day long, but learn about it and try to take the next step.”
Bos said Fick’s dedication to the cause makes him the perfect candidate for Conservationist of the Year.
“We’re really proud of Tom and what he has done for conservation in Rock County,” Bos said.
“Tom provides a wonderful example for conservationists by truly being a steward of the land through his leadership, commitment to conservation practices and efforts to share his knowledge to improve soil health.”
Each year the state’s SWCDs recognize individuals who protect the land and water. The state Conservationist of the Year award is done with support from The Farmer magazine.
For more information on the program, contact Bos at the Rock SWCD, phone 507-283-8862.
Fick encourages local producers to contact him at 507-920-9474 or for information on how to get started in cover crops or other soil health practices.
He also encourages them to find the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition website and Facebook page to connect with peers statewide.

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