Seeing the Value of Good Stewardship

Tom Griebel of Hatfield has been implementing a variety of conservation practices over many years. Last year his efforts earned him the title of 2019 Outstanding Conservationist for Pipestone County.
Local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) boards select Outstanding Conservationists each year and the honorees from around the state are recognized during a program in the fall. In the nomination letter for Griebel, the Pipestone County SWCD Board noted that Tom and his wife Barb have a Minnesota Agriculture Water Quality Certified farm and are leaders in their community, and that Griebel has worked to protect the land he manages in a wellhead protection area, conducted a soil health assessment, has installed sediment control basins, and uses no till, cover crops and rotational grazing.
The Griebels farm with Tom’s parents John and Corlys Griebel. The family raises sheep and grows corn, beans, wheat, alfalfa, grass and teff grass.
Griebel said he started implementing conservation practices about 15 years ago when he began rotational grazing for his cows. He created eight paddocks, two that were already pasture and the rest from former crop ground that he divided into 10-acre sections. He’s since gotten out of the cow business and uses three of the paddocks for sheep and rents out three paddocks to another farmer for cows. He rotates the other two paddocks between haying and grazing for the cows or sheep.
Griebel said he started the rotational grazing because pasture land was in short supply and he was tired of driving all over the county to check on pastures. He wanted his pastures closer to home. He used the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to pay for part of the cost of seeding and fencing materials.
About 12 years ago, Griebel said he started “dabbling” in no till, first planting corn into bean stubble and then planting beans into corn stalks. Griebel said the first time he tried no till it was because there had been a wet fall and he wasn’t able to get the tilling done then or the next spring.
“I guess you could say it was kind of an accident,” he said.
One outcome was that he saved fuel, so his input costs were less. He found out later that it improved the soil health.
Last year, Griebel started doing a soil health analysis through the SWCD on some of his no till land. It included taking soil samples, doing worm counts, and  looking into organic matter and soil compaction. They’ll do another analysis every year to see how the soil is changing.
“I can already see that it is greatly improving,” Griebel said.

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