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Seven Recipients of Good Idea Mini-Grants to Implement Edge-of-Field Practices on Midwest Farms and Share Their Stories

Seven teams of farmers and farm advisors have been awarded funding from Good Idea Mini-Grants, a program to encourage the implementation of edge-of-field conservation practices on farming operations in the Mississippi River Basin.

Selected from among 15 submitted proposals, the teams were awarded up to $8000 to implement an edge-of-field practice to help reduce soil erosion and nutrient runoff from farm fields into local waterways. Such practices range from prairie strips and vegetated waterways to bioreactors and drainage management.

“What’s most exciting about these projects is how diverse the operations and edge-of-field practices are. The differences here are a strength, demonstrating creative approaches to enhance land stewardship and improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin,” said Beth Baker, an associate extension professor at Mississippi State University Extension Service who is leading the mini-grant program.

In addition, the teams will produce a video and/or podcast about their projects to help other farmers learn how they might implement edge-of-field practices on their own operations. The videos and podcasts will be included on One Good Idea, an online clearinghouse of videos and podcasts that feature farmers sharing their experiences with conservation practices, with the goal of helping more farmers implement such practices through peer-to-peer knowledge exchange.

The grantees will also benefit from training about how farmers can share their conservation stories and serve as peer leaders to encourage other farmers to adopt edge-of-field practices.

“Something I think is unique about Good Idea Mini-Grants is its support for the recipients to share what they did with other farmers to encourage more uptake of edge-of-field practices. There’s so much research showing how important peer learning is among farmers for conservation practice adoption,” said Jenny Seifert, watershed outreach specialist at University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension.

The Good Idea Mini-Grant program is one of two innovative outreach approaches of a larger project Seifert is leading to evaluate new ways to incorporate peer learning into farmer engagement methods aimed at encouraging edge-of-field conservation practice adoption. The other outreach approach is a virtual meet-up series for farmers called Good Idea Shop Talks.

This larger project is a partnership between University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension, Mississippi State University Extension Service, and University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension and is funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and Walton Family Foundation.

Here is each funded mini-grant project in a nutshell:

Illinois landowner Kent Bohnhoff is partnering with the Iowa-based Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition and Ecosystem Services Exchange to install two automated drainage water management systems, a promising practice for reducing nitrogen runoff and increasing yields that is still underutilized.

Illinois farmer Brian Corkill is partnering with the University of Illinois Extension and Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership to install a bioreactor on his 1000-acre corn and soybean operation to prevent nutrient loss through tile drainage.

Minnesota farmer Heidi Eger is partnering with Fieldstone Consulting to construct an innovative vegetated waterway, which will incorporate a woodland, to prevent nutrient runoff into Wisel Creek, a trout stream.

Wisconsin landowner Dennis Ireland is partnering with Wisconsin Farmers Union to combat long-term erosion on a field by clearing brush, re-grading the land, and installing a buffer strip.

Another Wisconsin landowner and operator, Dennis Mitchell, is also partnering with Wisconsin Farmers Union to convert a 3.4-acre plot of low-profit cropland into a perennial grassed buffer that will mitigate erosion and nutrient loss to the adjacent Dry Run Creek.

Through their involvement in the Eau Pleine Partnership for Integrated Conservation, Wisconsin landowner and operator Larry Oehmichen is partnering with Marathon County Conservation Planning and Zoning, Pheasants Forever, and Shortlane Ag Supply LLC to install three different kinds of filter strips—a perennial hay harvestable buffer, a pollinator planting, and a wildlife enhancing strip—to reduce phosphorus runoff into a pond that is adjacent to a field in corn-soybean rotation.

Echo-Y Farms in Wisconsin is partnering with Sand County Foundation through their involvement in the Sauk Soil and Water Improvement Group (SSWIG), a farmer-led watershed conservation group, to design and install a prairie strip on recently purchased land.

The teams will install their edge-of-field practices this summer and fall, and their videos and podcasts will be shared via One Good Idea in winter 2025.

One Good Idea is a collaborative effort of land grant university extension and farmers from the U.S. Midwest and Mid-South to help all farmers make a difference for their operations, their communities, and the world. Learn more at

Header photo: Mini-grant recipient Darren Yanke of Echo-Y Farmers. Photo courtesy Sand County Foundation.

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