Area farmer, Andy Dombeck has been recognized for his efforts to protect natural resources. Dombeck has been named Conservationist of the Year and Area Conservationist of the year by the East Otter Tail Soil & Water Conservationist District.

The EOT SWCD is responsible for implementing conservation practices and programs on private land and for the responsible use of natural resources in the area of east Otter Tail County. The Otter Tail region is home to over 1,000 lakes, streams, and rivers, EOT SWCD recognizes the need to protect these valuable resources.

Dombeck was selected for both awards because of the work he does to protect water and soil resources on his farm.

Dombeck operates a 204-acre irrigated farm in eastern Otter Tail County growing corn and soybeans, and, in recent years, field peas and cereal rye. He practices strip-till for row crop operation and plants some no-till soybeans. This prevents soil erosion, protecting fresh water sources from soil sediment.

Dombeck also participates in the county SWCD's irrigation scheduler program. He has worked with the SWCD to do nutrient trials the past three years, and he recently adopted the practice of planting cover crops.

Dombeck has been operating his farm for six years and it still changing, experimenting, and improving his ability to preserve the land. He grows a variety of crops, including, corn, soybean, barley, and peas. Dombeck's favorite part of farming is simply observing the progress of his farm after all the work he puts in, every single day.

"I was a little surprised, I don't think what I'm doing is that special," said Dombeck in response to winning the awards. He only found out recently that he was the recipient of both awards. On Dec. 11 a ceremony was held in Minneapolis to formally announce him as the Conservationist of the Year.

The SWCD board and staff consider environmentally conscious farmers for the award every year in September. These farmers must demonstrate excellence in their efforts to protect natural resources while operating a successful farm. Defined conservation practices that protect water, soil, and natural resources must be present.

The award of Conservationist of the Year recognizes conservation efforts within the East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District. The Northwest Area One Conservationist of the Year recognizes excellence in conservation practices within a 14 county area in northwest Minnesota. Only Dombeck and one other farm have ever received both awards.

Dombeck encourages other farmers to implement conservation practices, saying, "It's the right thing to do, we're only here for a short time and we need to leave it better than when we found it."

Dombeck wants farmers to simply try it. Placing a small research plot could very well be the beginning of a better, more efficient farm.