New expert support and funds available for farmers in the Lower St. Croix Watershed

When Lower St. Croix Watershed Partners in Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, Pine and Washington Counties asked farmers for input in developing a 10-year watershed management plan, they received a wide variety of suggestions and requests.

This is the fifth year I’ve owned my small farm. It was a mess with run-down fields, rotted out fences, junk machinery, and illegal in-ground tanks and broken cisterns. We have been rehabbing the farm.

We’re new to Pine City and would like to help improve soil quality and reduce nitrates and herbicides. We’re interested in sustainable farming.

I would dig a sediment basin if you would help me to get the permit.

Other farmers shared conservation projects they have already completed with support from their local Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

We just completed a project in 2018 to inhibit erosion of a small stream. Thanks!

We are already involved in a Washington County watershed program to turn our land into prairie.

In total, Lower St. Croix partners heard from 440 farmers during interviews, surveys, workshops, and small group conversations. Farmers said they want to improve soil health, reduce runoff pollution, and get more support to implement conservation practices on their land. In fact, many said that they are already implementing no-till, cover crops, and erosion control, but struggle with up-front costs, lack of local support, and concerns about profitability.

During a soil health field day in Chisago County, farmers could observe the difference in runoff quality for fields with and without cover crops or residual vegetation.

Now, with new grant funds from the state, the Lower St. Croix Watershed Partnership has hired a Minnesota Extension agronomy outreach specialist – Jennifer Hahn – and has earmarked more than $200,000 to support soil health practices and conservation plans. Funds will also support larger conservation projects, including grassed waterways, sediment basins, gully repair, and conversion of less productive land to natural areas.

Hahn grew up on a dairy farm in Chisago County that now runs corn and soybeans, and has worked previously with Redwood Soil and Water Conservation District, Minnesota Soil Health Coalition, Pheasants Forever, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. She will be helping to plan field seminars and providing outreach, education, technical expertise, conservation planning, and networking for agricultural lands within the watershed.

Jennifer Hahn is a new Minnesota Extension agronomist working with farmers in the Lower St. Croix Watershed.

When asked about what she’s looking forward to in her new position, Jennifer replied, “This job is literally my dream job and I’m so excited to return home and work with the many people I’ve formed relationships with in the past. There is much work to be done, but I’m excited to be part of the efforts moving conservation forward in the Lower St. Croix watershed.”

Hahn’s position at Minnesota Extension is the second staff position created as part of the Lower St. Croix Watershed Partnership. Last spring, Barbara Heitkamp was hired by Washington Conservation District to lead a variety of education and outreach projects across the five county Lower St. Croix area, working with farmers, as well as lake associations, local residents, and community leaders. Both Heitkamp and Hahn are working in conjunction with the 17 local government entities in the watershed partnership.

Barbara Hahn leads education and outreach efforts for the Lower St. Croix Partnership.

During 2021, Lower St. Croix agricultural grant funds were used to stabilize a large, eroding ravine along the St. Croix River in Denmark Twp., and install fencing to keep cattle out of Rock Lake in Pine County. The ravine stabilization will keep 250 tons per year of sediment and 220 pounds per year of phosphorus out of the St. Croix River. The cattle exclusion project in Pine County will keep 3.5 pounds of phosphorus per year out of Rock Lake.

This year, the partnership hopes to direct grant funds towards non-structural practices such as cover crops, no-till, and strip-till. 

To learn more about the Lower St. Croix Watershed Partnership, visit