Who we are
We are a landscape-scale restoration advocacy group. We work in partnership with watershed activists, farmers and other landowners, academic institutions, foundations, nonprofits, natural resource agencies, and other private conservation organizations committed to incorporating perennials and other land-use practices into farming operations that return historic ecological function to the agricultural watersheds of the upper Midwest and beyond. Read more.
What we do
Our focus is watershed level outcomes. Using a GIS-based “Opportunity Lands” mapping program that we developed, we work with partners to organize and run “visioning” workshops that enable landowners and other stakeholders to identify places on the local landscape where opportunities exist to rebuild soil, filter water, reduce erosion and runoff, restore health to surface and groundwater, and increase biological diversity through land use practices keyed to the ecological dictates of the land. Read more.
Our work is predicated on the belief that what is needed are more farmers growing more kinds of crops for more markets that put plants and animals on the landscape to actually improve soil and water quality, reduce erosion, increase biodiversity at a landscape scale, and put businesses back on main street.
Our watershed visioning sessions are informed by the GIS-based “Opportunity Lands” map, the watershed’s natural history, and the latest in best management farming practices using principles and practices of restoration ecology and conservation biology, along with the creative use of both federal and state conservation program lands such as CRP, CSP, EQIP. Farming strategies include the use of cover crops, agroforestry practices, rotational animal grazing, and other soil-building intercrops on the production fields along with wildlife corridors, riparian buffers, etc. New, on-the-ground technologies such as conservation drainage and precision agriculture also play an important role.
We’ve written a book about all this. We’ve used as an example one intensely farmed landscape — the greater Blue Earth River watershed in north central Iowa and south central Minnesota. In our book, This Perennial Land: third crops, blue earth, and the road to a restorative agriculture, we lay out in photographs and essays a picture of what a restorative agriculture would look like on one actual Midwestern landscape, and what policies would be needed to support that kind of farming and grow the necessary markets to sustain it. And it suggests how we can get there. Read more.