Good Idea Mini-Grants

Teams of farmers and farm advisors have received mini-grants to install low-cost edge-of-field practices and create a video or podcast to share what they did and learned, so other farmers can learn from them.

Edge-of-field practices help mitigate erosion and nutrient runoff at the edge of farm fields, thereby saving soil, retaining nutrients, and improving water quality. They encompass a variety of practices, such as prairie strips, vegetated buffers, bioreactors, two-stage ditches, and many more.

The awarded teams will be implementing their projects from spring 2024 to winter 2025. Learn more about their projects below, and stay tuned for their videos and podcasts!

Mini-grant recipient and farmer Darren Yanke of Echo-Y Farms. Photo courtesy Sand County Foundation

Illinois Landowner Kent Bohnhoff

Bohnhoff is partnering with the Iowa-based Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition and Ecosystem Services Exchange to install two automated drainage water management (DWM) systems, a promising practice for reducing nitrogen runoff and stabilizing yields.

While still underutilized, automated DWM systems allow farmers to be more responsive to crop needs and to manage multiple systems without the burden of driving to each site.

The “Before” photo: One of the sites where a drainage water management system will be installed, pictured in annual rye grass cover crop.

Illinois Farmer Brian Corkill

Corkill is partnering with the University of Illinois Extension and Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership to install a second bioreactor on his 1000-acre corn and soybean operation to prevent nutrient loss through tile drainage.

This project will demonstrate how a bioreactor can add to existing conservation cropping systems – e.g., Corkill’s includes cover crops, no-till, and responsible nutrient management.

The “Before” photo: The site where the bioreactor will be installed.

Minnesota Farmer Heidi Eger

Eger is partnering with Fieldstone Consulting to construct an innovative vegetated waterway, which will incorporate a woodland, to prevent nutrient runoff into Wisel Creek, a trout stream.

The project will demonstrate how woodlands can be managed affordably to mitigate runoff and enhance wildlife habitat.

The “Before” photo: This woodland will be strategically thinned and seeded with multi-stemmed grass and forbs species.

Wisconsin Landowner Dennis Ireland

Ireland is partnering with Wisconsin Farmers Union to combat long-term erosion on a field by clearing brush, re-grading the land, and installing a buffer strip.

This is a classic project that many farmers can relate to, and the team will demonstrate how this erosion-control approach can be manageable.

The “Before” photo: The site has experienced long-term erosion, resulting in the formation of a berm, which will be removed for the project.

Wisconsin Owner/Operator Dennis Mitchell

Mitchell is partnering with Wisconsin Farmers Union to convert a 3.4 acre plot of low-profit cropland into a perennial grassed buffer that will mitigate erosion and nutrient loss to the adjacent Dry Run Creek.

A simple, easy-to-implement practice, the buffer will demonstrate for other farmers how they too can prevent erosion and protect soil at their field borders.

The “Before” photo: The low-profit field that will be converted to a perennial grassed buffer.

Wisconsin Owner/Operator Larry Oehmichen

Through their involvement in the Eau Pleine Partnership for Integrated Conservation, Oehmichen is partnering with Marathon County Conservation Planning and Zoning, Pheasants Forever, and Shortlane Ag Supply LLC to install three different kinds of filter strips—a perennial hay harvestable buffer, a pollinator planting, and a wildlife enhancing strip—to reduce phosphorus runoff into a pond that is adjacent to a field in corn-soybean rotation.

The project will demonstrate how to maximize benefits from marginal cropland.

The “Before” photo: The field where the three different filter strips will be installed.

Echo-Y Farms in Wisconsin

Echo-Y Farms is partnering with Sand County Foundation through their involvement in the Sauk Soil and Water Improvement Group (SSWIG), a farmer-led watershed conservation group, to design and install a prairie strip on recently purchased land that has experienced years of soil degradation.

Their project will demonstrate the value of prairie strips for reducing erosion, increasing infiltration, and enhancing biodiversity.

The “Before” photo: The field where the prairie strip will be installed.