Marschall Farm Achieves Water Quality Certification
October 18, 2023 by Alyson Levig
Gary and Lisa Marschall’s feeder cattle farm joins the rising number of producers becoming certified water quality stewards through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP)—a voluntary opportunity for farmers taking the lead in implementing conservation-minded practices to protect water quality. The Marschall’s 235 acres of both owned and leased farmland achieved water quality certification in September 2023, accompanying over 1,300 producers in Minnesota farming over 950,000 certified acres within the almost 10-year-old program.
“The MAWQCP process alone has helped us learn the importance of soil sampling and testing our land,” Lisa said. “It has also improved our knowledge in knowing what we can do further to help the land and environment, thrive.”
The original 160-acre farm in Becker County was first a gravel pit until 1987 when Gary’s father purchased it to begin the row-crop farming lifestyle. However, as a previously mined pit, very little topsoil remained; thus, soil amendments were added, mostly through the application of commercial fertilizers. In 2005, Gary and Lisa purchased the farm, and have since worked with other federal programs such as EQUIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) and CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) through NRCS (National Resource Conservation Service) to build the soil profile up to become a more profitable farm.
“We needed the help from others to gain the understanding of planting things to nourish the ground, rather than deplete it,” Lisa said.
Today, the Marschalls own roughly 60 cow/calf pairs that are rotationally grazed in 155 acres of either sorghum or grass, clover, and alfalfa mixed fields with the aid of an extensive paddock system consisting of 30-40 paddocks, depending on weather patterns. This type of grazing involves moving livestock to different units of pasture to encourage recovery of the previously grazed vegetation to prevent soil erosion and promote water quality. The system also controls access to sensitive areas, such as wetlands and shorelines, and provides alternative sources for livestock to access water. Additionally, with the assistance of MAWQCP, the Marschall’s sorghum will be left as a cover crop each season, rather than being tilled in as green manure.
“We all should strive to do what’s best for the land,” Lisa said. “By doing so, we are also preserving our way of life for our children and grandchildren to also participate in farm activities, which ultimately bring us all closer together.”
Posted In: MAWQCP