Nobles County honors Wagners for conservation work

ADRIAN, Minn. (AP) — Andy Wagner has witnessed amazing changes in farming technology through the windows of his homestead northeast of Adrian these last 87 years. One thing that hasn’t changed over time, however, is his dedication to leave the land in as good of, if not better, condition than when he farmed it.

Wagner and his wife of 64 years, Geraldine, will be honored in early December as Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Conservationists of the Year, during the district’s annual convention in St. Paul. The Wagners are humbled by the honor, yet appreciative to the Soil and Water Conservation District for all of its efforts to encourage conservation practices.

"I think we just kind of borrow the land when we’re here," Andy Wagner said. "And we just pass it along to somebody else when we leave."

The Wagner farm was purchased by Andy’s father in 1922 — one year after Andy was born. Yet it was actually in 1914 when the family began farming the land they call home in Section 34 of Larkin Township.

"Andy started farming when he was just a kid — he was 14 years old," Geraldine Wagner said. Today, their son, Wendell, and grandson, Michael, are also involved in the family farming operation.


Together, the three generations of farmers are carrying on conservation efforts that began in the 1960s, when Andy met a conservation worker at the Soil and Water Conservation District office who touted the benefits of practices such as farm-over terraces.

"He convinced (Andy) that was the way to go," Geraldine said.

At the time, the Wagners had just purchased a half-section of land that, in Andy’s words, "needed work."

"That’s where we put our first terraces on," Andy explained.

Eventually, the Wagners altered the practice to a narrow-base terrace, which consists of about 8- to 10-foot wide strips of brome grass planted on slopes to keep water from running off the land too fast and creating gullies.

"It will hold a six-inch rain," Andy said. The Wagners have 21 narrow-based terraces established on land they farm and, after the initial seeding is done, Andy said there is very little maintenance.

In addition to establishing terraces, the Wagners have also installed filter strips and practice both strip-till and contour farming.

"It’s the erosion that you save," said Andy of the practices. "The heavy rains that we get, that’s the biggest detriment to farms that we have around here. Mother Nature’s pretty harsh when it comes to heavy rains and wind."


The Soil and Water Conservation District has provided cost-sharing for the conservation work the Wagners have implemented, but some of the practices aren’t cheap for landowners. Still, Andy said the benefits outweigh the costs.

"You couldn’t do it without the soil and water boys," Andy said. "Building terraces are kind of a headache."

Once the effort to coordinate the district and tiling contractor is complete, however, the work done is worth the wait.

Speaking of work, Andy said he has one more project he’d hoped to have completed yet this year — the installation of a perm to divert water back into a waterway and prevent soil erosion.

Anything he can do to save the soil for future generations means carrying on a farming tradition that began with his father 95 years ago.

"We’re proud of what the Wagners have done in conserving the natural resources in our area," said Lynn Darling, Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor. "It’s great to be able to recognize the work they’ve done locally. They’ve provided a wonderful example for us by conserving the soil on their land and installing several conservation practices which prevent major washouts and gullies."


Information from: The Daily Globe,

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