January 17, 2022 at 3:36 a.m.
SHAFER, Minn. – The Mallery family of Mallery Jerseys has been named Minnesota’s Conservationist of the Year.
The family’s efforts earned them the title this year from the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Their work has also been honored by Chisago County, where they were named county conservationists of the year in 2020 and 2021.
“I was honored,” said Jeff Mallery, a third-generation dairy farmer from Shafer. “Farmers often get blamed for making the environment worse; therefore, to be recognized for conserving the environment felt like an accomplishment for all farmers changing from old ways to new, regenerative farming.”
Mallery leads the farm along with his mom, Nancy, and his wife, Karla, and their three children – Eddie, Tommy and Libbie. Mallery Jerseys is home to 250 milking cows plus replacements. Mallery’s grandfather bought the farm in the late 1950s. His father, Joe, and his uncle, Bill, farmed until Joe’s passing and Bill’s retirement. Joe established some of the first conversation practices on the farm. Those practices have continued and grown since.
The family was honored at the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts awards banquet in December 2021. The banquet highlighted 57 conservationists from across Minnesota.
Through the years, the Mallerys have incorporated a multitude of farm practices that better the environment.
Mallery Jerseys sits atop the bluffs that border the St. Croix River, and the farm is in close proximity to the tourist town of Taylors Falls. The location puts the farm adjacent to federal- and state-owned land.
There were washouts on the federal- and state-owned land so the family was contacted by the Chisago County Natural Resources Conservation Service and SWCD office. The project was driven by the designation of the St. Croix River as a National Scenic Riverway under the protection of the National Park Service.
The more the Mallerys learned about their land, the more projects for improvement they planned.
The farm now includes large buffers and diversions, water and sediment control basins, and grade stabilizations to fix gullies and reduce erosion.
Overall, the improvements also led to changes in the way the Mallerys managed the farm. They instituted cover crop and no-till drilling across the 700 acres of corn, alfalfa and small grains.
“These practices build up organic matter, maintain carbon in the soil and support microorganisms,” Mallery said. “Soil with high organic matter can hold a lot more water.”
The Mallerys’ investments and changes paid off this summer when only 2 inches of rain fell from May to August, and they were able to grow over 200 bushels of corn.
The improvements have also led to a focus on nutrient management.
“Reducing runoff traps any nutrients that could possibly harm water quality,” Mallery said.
The Mallerys took things a step further in 2020 and became Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality certified.
“This helps protect water ways in our area,” Mallery said.
In order to be certified, the farm had to have a nutrient management plan, something Mallery said he has always done but not to the specifications to be certified.
The Mallerys are working with Chisago County SWCD to control runoff and soil erosion. Mallery credits the partnership with allowing the family to expand its conservation practices through the years.
“Extensive work was completed that required time and money; two things farmers don’t have extra of,” Mallery said.
Mallery said he was not initially aware there were grant dollars available to landowners who want to improve the soil and waterways in their area.
“We encourage land owners to reach out to their local district to see how they can help with ideas and funding for different conservation practices,” he said.
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