Jun 12, 2023Minnesota seed farm achieves state water quality certification
R.D. Offutt’s Twin Rivers Seed Farm is now certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The farm joins more than 13,000 Minnesota growers as a recognized leader for water stewardship and land management practices.
Twin Rivers Seed Farm, located near Staples, grows potato seed every year for the company’s commercial farms. The certification program requires an in-depth examination of field characteristics and crop rotation history, nutrients and pesticide management techniques, as well as tillage and irrigation practices.
Jim Lahn, area certification specialist for the program, conducted a review of R.D. Offutt’s seed farm operation in partnership with agriculture department staff members, according to a news release.
“R.D. Offutt’s Twin Rivers Seed Farm operation meets all the requirements to earn the Water Quality Certification,” Lahn said in the release. “This program is an excellent way for farmers to tell the story of the good things they are doing to protect water quality — and those very things are happening at R.D. Offutt’s seed farm.”
Keith McGovern, president of R.D. Offutt Farms and son-in-law of founder Ron Offutt, oversees the family-owned operation. McGovern became interested in the certification program to demonstrate the company’s commitment to regenerative agriculture.
“As farmers, we rely on the soil, water and sun to grow our crop,” McGovern said. “Since our founding nearly 60 years ago, R.D. Offutt Farms has managed natural resources to ensure that they thrive today and for generations to follow. We are proud of earning this certification that acknowledges our commitment to protect those natural resources.”
Nearly 975,000 acres are now certified by the program, according to the release.
Jake Jacobson, R.D. Offutt farm manager, provided information on conservation processes implemented by the farm to protect water quality, including:
- Long crop rotation: Potato seed is only planted one out of every four years per field. Jacobson’s team works with neighbors and other farmers to rotate crops, a practice that benefits soil health and interrupts pest cycles associated with each crop.
- Cover crops: Cover crops are planted on all R.D. Offutt Farm fields coming out of potato seed production in the fall and going into potato seed production the next spring. A variety of cover crops are planted, including rye, oats, mustard and radish. The crops slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability and increase biodiversity.
- Minimum tillage: The farm has decreased its tillage practices by 50% over the past three years. Fields are only tilled once, incorporating cover crops into the soil before planting potato seed each spring.
- Irrigation management: Fields are only irrigated when moisture sensors indicate a need. Jacobson’s team members use remote monitoring to manage irrigation and precise, center-pivot systems with low-pressure nozzles.
“The certification validated that we are employing the right conservation practices and managing our operation well,” Jacobson said.
R.D. Offutt Farms operates more than 10 company and partner farms across Minnesota. The company grows nearly all its own seed, McGovern said, ensuring maximum control over quality and enhanced traceability.
Growing potato seed is a multi-year process. In the first year, the seed starts as a tissue-culture plantlet in a greenhouse, then is grown for three more seasons. Two of those growing years take place at R.D. Offutt’s seed farm in Atkinson, Nebraska, before a final year at the Twin Rivers Seed Farm.
During that year, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture inspects the seed three times throughout the planting season and conducts a winter growth test before certifying that the seed is ready for commercial planting.
“In our seed operation and throughout our all fields, we are constantly looking for ways to keep learning and building on our long history of sustainably growing potatoes,” McGovern said.