2016 Outstanding Conservationist of the Year

Each year, the 89 Soil and Water Conservation Districts comprising The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD), offer the MASWCD Outstanding Conservationist Award to recognize individuals, conservation organizations, and others for outstanding accomplishments with implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota's natural resources.

Each year, SWCDs across the state honor a variety of landowners, ag-producers, lake associations, civic organizations and others for their efforts to preserve rare or declining habitats, incorporate new management techniques, conserve resources and reduce the amount of runoff of sediment and nutrients to Minnesota’s surface waters.

This year, The Becker Soil and Water Conservation District is proud to name Al Bergquist as Becker County's Outstanding Conservationist of the Year.

Though Audubon farmer Al Bergquist was initially a bit reluctant to accept the Becker Soil & Water Conservation District's Outstanding Conservationist of the Year Award, it wasn't because he wasn't honored.

"He didn't want the publicity," explained SWCD Administrator Peter Mead.

"That's not why I do these things," Bergquist said.

In fact, it took a bit of persuading from fellow Lake Eunice Township board member Ed Clem, who is the SWCD's soil and water resource technician. But eventually, he said yes.

"We nominated him because of his knack for voluntarily doing the things we try to talk folks into doing through our programs," Mead said.

"The incentives come second for me," says Bergquist.

Outstanding Conservationist Award Recipient - Al Bergquist
Audubon farmer Al Bergquist has been chosen as the Becker Soil & Water Conservation District's Outstanding Conservationist for 2016

For instance, he chose to convert his farm operation to no-till farming "because of the erosion, and because it (the soil) holds moisture better," he added.

"Next year I will have 100 percent no-till," Bergquist continued. "It's taken about three years to switch over."

A third generation farmer, Bergquist raises corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on about 1,000 acres, which is a combination of land he owns and rents. He also raises 60 head of beef cows, using rotational grazing.

When he wanted to improve the shoreline of his lot on Lake Eunice, he enlisted the SWCD's help as well.

"I don't like riprap, and I didn't want sand," he explained. "I wanted to look at ways to make the beach look good the right way."

"So we found a solution that was good for the lake," Mead said.

"I put coconut core on the shore and planted native grasses, shrubs and flowers," said Bergquist, adding that he was happy with the way it turned out.

Though he was unable to attend in person, Bergquist was among the Outstanding Conservationist honorees at a special luncheon held during the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts' 80th annual meeting and trade show, which took place on Dec. 4-6 in Bloomington.

The Outstanding Conservationists Luncheon closed the convention on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Each of the honorees chosen by the state's 90 local Soil and Water Conservation Districts were recognized during the luncheon.

"We will accept Al's award on his behalf," said Mead.

For more information, please visit the MASWCD website at www.maswcd.org, or call the Becker SWCD office at 218-846-7360.