The Le Sueur County SWCD Board of Supervisors chose the Heldberg family for the 2023 Outstanding Conservationists of the Year. Karl, Nancy, Garret, Luke and Gretchen Heldberg run a dairy farm near Le Sueur in Sharon Township.
The Heldbergs are 3rd generation farmers, currently farming on land that was purchased in 1948 by Karl’s father and uncle. Karl began dairy farming in 1997 on a rented dairy farm and in 2004 built the dairy on his current farm site. The Heldbergs milk 75 cows along with having young stock and dry cows on their pastures. They have a rotation of corn, alfalfa, small grains and cover crops.
The Heldbergs were selected as outstanding conservationists due to their dedication to soil health practices and incorporating those practices into their farming operations. Karl has no- tilled corn the past 3 years along with changing his corn planting date to maximize the spring growth cover crop productivity for both forage and soil health benefits. Manure is spread on growing cover crops to help reduce runoff and capture nutrients. Cattle are also grazed on cover crops and corn stalks in the fall allowing the manure to be spread naturally on the fields, alleviating some of the hauling and compaction issues that can occur.
Karl and his family are witnessing the benefits of incorporating soil health practices as their fields have shown increased water holding capacity and infiltrations rates, allowing for healthy crops during the last few years of dry weather. Karl has been a great mentor for surrounding farmers who have questions about soil health practices and is willing to try new practices that have the potential to improve his farming operation.
The Heldbergs will be honored at this year’s MN Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts annual convention in December at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bloomington.