Nolte Family Farms achieve Water Quality Certification

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With the MN Ag Water Quality Certified sign are Rita Nolte (left), Tim Nolte, Eric Nolte, Katie Hockett, Jacob Nolte, Eva Ehnert, Anne Oldakowski, Assistant Manager, Wadena SWCD, Dan Ehnert and Jim Lahn, MAWQCP Area Certification Specialist. Submitted photo

The Note Family Farms were recognized last fall for their efforts in land and water management with the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP)

Tim and Rita Nolte - and much of their family – are all involved in the management of their farming operation near Sebeka. As they care for their cow-calf herd and their pasture, hay, and row crop fields, they also care for the resources that make it possible, according to a news release from the Wadena Soil and Water Conservation District.

Their farming operation joins the 850 Water Quality Certified farming operations in Minnesota’s unique, five-year old program that recognizes farmers’ efforts to protect the state’s water quality. Water Quality Certified farming operations adopt a system or combination of conservation practices on the land – conservation practices that are suited for that particular soil type, topography, and type of farming operation.

Here’s how Tim, Rita, and family achieve this goal:

  • The great majority of the Noltes’ land is in long-term perennial pasture and hay, with many of these fields established to perennial vegetation for longer than a 10-year period. The result is that the soil is protected from erosion by wind or water and little to no soil sediment or nutrients are delivered to streams, lakes, and wetlands.
  • The Nolte family practices rotational grazing as they often move their cow-calf herds between different paddocks (smaller pasture areas); this prevents over-grazing. In the river bottom pastures, they are careful to use flash grazing, which allows their cow-calf herd only limited, temporary access to water in the river. On their Nolte home farm adjacent to the Red Eye River, they have a livestock watering system with water supplied by a well. In this way, the cow-calf herd has alternative water source other than the river. • Many grassed filter strips and riparian buffers (forested areas) are maintained along the river, streams, and water bodies on the Nolte farmland. This perennial vegetation along the water’s edge traps soil sediment and nutrients before they enter the water.
  • On the few fields where row crops are grown, only spring tillage is practiced, and the time period between spring tillage and planting is kept to a minimum. This “crop residue cover” (stalks and stubble from the harvested crop) is on the soil surface in the fall, winter, and into spring and protects the soil – reducing soil erosion and slowing down runoff water. The Noltes also plant fields to winter rye grain, which serves as a cover crop, protecting the soil from erosion where corn silage is chopped and also preventing the loss of nutrients in the soil.
  • The Noltes “use as little commercial fertilizer as possible”, in efforts to reduce their input costs. They practice proper nutrient management as they choose their fertilizer and livestock manure application rates, following University of Minnesota recommendations which protect water quality. The Nolte family use good pest management techniques, correctly using herbicides only to control weeds in their row crop fields and thistles in their pastures. This system of conservation practices is effective in protecting our water and soil resources, which is a high priority to the Nolte family. In Tim’s words, “Our whole lives revolve around trees and grass and cows; without good clean water, it’s all for nothing.” “

“I thank the Nolte family for participating in this program – it’s an excellent way for farmers to consider new Conservation Practices and also tell the story of the good things they do to protect water quality,” said Jim Lahn, Area Certification Specialist North Central Minnesota MAWQCP Area in the news release.

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