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SWCD names Howes oustanding conservationists

Steve and Wanda Howe of Chokio were selected as Stevens County’s Outstanding Conservationists for 2018 by the Stevens County Soil and Water Conservation District. They are pictured here with their son Levi in a rain garden on their property that was constructed by Stevens SWCD. Photo from the SWCD.

Steve and Wanda Howe of Chokio were selected as Stevens County's Outstanding Conservationists for 2018 by the Stevens Water and Soil Conservation District. The Howes have been part of Steve's amily farm for more than 28 years. They have five children.

Steve Howe's dad Richard started farming near Chokio in Baker and Stevens Townships in 1953, where his grandpa Gordon farmed prior to that. The family has nearly reached the century farm mark. His mom Bonnie still lives on the home farm today. His dad was always a conservation minded and continued to plant trees year after year and set aside land for wildlife habitat and for his family to hunt and enjoy, a news release from the Stevens County Soil and Water Conservation District said.

Today Howe and his brother have nearly 500 acres in WRP, CRP CREP. He also converted his tillable land from corn and beans to alfalfa, implementing forage and biomass planting and forage harvest management plans as part of his participation in the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program. These practices are designed to decrease soil erosion and increase soil health by adding a deep-rooted crop to decrease compaction. The land also provides wildlife cover over the winter and he can use the additional forage for his cattle.

Howe was one of the first in the state to set up a grazing plan on a permanent Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) easement. He runs his cow/calf pairs on his WRP acreage using a grazing plan developed under NRCS standards. Grazing an easement area like this creates a light disturbance for wildlife and improves grassland health on his property. Howe has also installed a rain garden in his back yard to divert rain water away from his house and filter the runoff to improve water quality. He also enjoys the added benefits of beauty and increased wildlife and pollinators seen around his yard.

Howe and his brother John were recently certified in Stevens County through the MAWQCP (Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program). This certification involves a farm-wide review of farm management practices and once certified, landowners have regulatory certainty for ten years. This means they are each automatically in compliance with any new water quality rules or laws enacted during that time.

Howe has plans for a shelterbelt renovation next year and is always looking for new ways to implement conservation on this farm. The Howes are committed to using their farm for wildlife habitat and as a place where their family can enjoy the outdoors and hunting for years to come. Congratulations on making your farm a conservation legacy in Stevens County. Steve and Wanda Howe will be honored at the MASWCD Convention in December 9-11 as part of their state-wide Outstanding Conservationist Program.