Education and mentorship to support mutually beneficial leases that promote regenerative agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2022: $39,500.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Izaak Walton League of America's Upper Mississippi River Initiative
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Dave Zentner
Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League - Upper Mississippi River Initiative


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, no-till, nutrient management, water management, water storage
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: financial management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, wildlife
  • Pest Management: precision herbicide use, weed ecology
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, quality of life, sustainability measures, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    In the words of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, “the Minnesota River is unhealthy. Sediment clouds the water, phosphorus causes algae, nitrogen poses risks to humans and fish, and bacteria make the water unsafe for swimming.” Regenerative agriculture is a tool to reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment loading. The majority of the region is in a corn/soybean rotation, and roughly half of farmers in Minnesota are tenants who face unique obstacles. Many tenant farmers have difficulty negotiating leases which make regenerative practices economically viable. Corollarily, many non-operating landowners have difficulty “speaking the language” of conventional farmers and nudging them toward more regenerative operations. We propose a series of interactive conferences bringing together farmers with landowners and facilitating ongoing peer-to-peer mentorship. As farmers learn best from other farmers, we have partnered with farmer and landowner leaders through every step of the process. Facilitating ongoing peer-to-peer support among conventional corn/soybean farmers is critical to enacting landscape-level change and improving water quality in the region.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Educate 250 farmers at 5 conferences through the Minnesota River Valley on ways to negotiate with landowners to make adoption of regenerative practices more feasible
    • Educate landowners regarding the benefits of encouraging regenerative practices on their land
    • Expose landowners and farmers to each other’s perspective
    • Recruit landowners and farmers to an ongoing mentorship opportunity where they may have more success at adopting or encouraging regenerative practices
    • Increase number of producers that adopt enduring regenerative agricultural practices
    • Improve economic sustainability of tenant farming and farmland leasing through smarter contracts and regenerative agriculture
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.