By Dave Walter
Root River SWCD
Each year the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District honors a well-deserving conservationist within Houston County. The county is divided into five districts and selects their conservationist on a rotating schedule. In 2013 the Outstanding Conservationist of the Year was selected from District 5 consisting of Houston Township and Village, Money Creek Township, Sheldon Township and Yucatan Township. Matt Feldmeier is the Root River board supervisor that serves this district.
Outstanding conservationists are considered through the efforts and commitment that landowners give to protect our area’s natural resources. Recipients of this award are not only leaders in conservation but also community involvement. They take the time and are willing to share their vision with others. Outstanding conservationists are the type of individuals that set the bar high and then work hard to achieve their goals. The end product is a better environment for everyone to enjoy and be proud of, for now, and future generations.
This year our Outstanding Conservationist is Eugene and Carol Laschenski.
The family operation began in 1955 when Eugene’s father, Kasmer, purchased the home farm in Yucatan Township. Eugene was always a big part of the farming activities. In 1966 he married Carol Riely of McGregor, Iowa. In 1980 the Laschenskis had the opportunity to purchase the neighboring property up the valley, which tied in nicely with the home farm. Eugene took over the farming operation in 1990, but it wasn’t until 2000 after a 35-year career with UPS that Eugene was able to farm full time.
The Laschenskis raise 250 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa hay. Their livestock operation consists of 60 cow/calf pairs on 360 acres of pasture land. Eugene weans the calves in late fall and will take them to a finish weight. During the winter months he uses moveable forage and mineral feeders to reduce soil compaction and high levels of nutrients. Eugene has excluded 140 acres of more sensitive land from grazing. In turn, he permanently seeded down 60 acres of cropland to make up for lost acres of pasture.
On all cropland, Laschenski follows his conservation plan, which has sound best management practices. Over the years Eugene has installed two flood control structures, three grade stabilization structures and several hundred feet of grassed waterways and stream bank improvements.
The management of crop residue is a significant and important part of his operation. When it comes to conservation tillage, Eugene has discontinued working his cropland in the fall. He spring tills his non-highly erodible land and no-till plants into his highly erodible fields. In addition to farming on the contour, Laschenski has a very lengthy hay rotation; he plants corn for one year, one year small grain and leaves it in hay for a minimum of five to six years on the highly erodible soils.
On more sensitive lands Eugene keeps land in hay for up to 15 years. Laschenski performs soil testing on his cropland at least every three years and applies the correct amount of nutrients as recommended by the local co-op.
Maintaining their crop rotation is the main defense for pest control. Eugene scouts his property on a regular basis to help detect any potential pest that may degrade his crop production.
Eugene has also partnered with the Minnesota DNR in developing a forestry management plan. This plan assisted him in his timber sales and improved his wildlife food and cover areas. In addition to the forestry management plan, the DNR aided in enhancing Eugene’s goat bluff prairies. When clear cutting the cedar and birch trees off the bluff land it helped; protect, maintain and enhance the native grasses and forbs along with the game and non-game animals and their ecosystems.
In light of the economics in the farming industry, where there is a big push for corn/bean production fueled by the high commodity prices, the Laschenski’s have stayed true to their conservation ethics. Keeping and maintaining their grasses, waterways, structures and other BMPs makes them leaders in the farming community.