2016 Minnesota's Outstanding

Conservationist of the Year!!!!


Rick and Marlene Schlichting

2016 12.6.16 OCC Schlichting Award Ceremony 002 



St. Paul – The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD), with support from The Farmer Magazine, has named Rick and Marlene Schlichting of Rice, Minnesota, as the State’s Outstanding Conservationist of the Year.


The award was announced at the 80th annual MASWCD Annual Convention, Dec 4-6 in Bloomington, Minn. Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) selected Rick and Marlene Schlichting as Benton County’s 2016 Outstanding Conservation Cooperators of the Year, and nominated them for MASWCD’s West Central Area Outstanding Conservationist Award. The Schlichtings went on to win the Area award and were one of the eight Area Finalists for Minnesota’s 2016 Outstanding Conservationist Award. The award program recognizes farm families, individuals,conservation organizations, and other groups for their accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota’s natural resources.


“We’re proud of Rick and Marlene for what they’ve done in conserving the natural resources in Benton County,” said Chuck Rau, supervisor of Benton SWCD. “It is great to be able to recognize the work they’ve done locally, and for them to receive top honors as Minnesota’s 2016 Outstanding Conservationist of the Year.”


Rick and Marlene farm 6,300 acres with a rotation of potatoes, edible beans, corn, alfalfa, and winter rye. They also raise nearly 20,000 hogs in a farrow-to-finish operation. Additionally Rick also manages Prairie Farms Company with his aunt, Diane Wojtanowicz.


Rick and Marlene have been true stewards of the land by implementing best management practices within their operation since the early 70’s to reduce soil erosion that occurs in the sandy soils of central Minnesota. To reduce wind erosion during the non-growing season between harvest and planting, Schlichtings incorporate cover crops into their system. Winter Rye is planted after potato and edible bean harvest and provide multiple soil health benefits to their fields. They have planted and maintain existing field windbreaks around field edges where possible to also reduce wind erosion. Rick and Marlene have also converted all 65 irrigation systems from high water pressure to low water pressure systems to conserve water and energy usage while improving overall performance. They have been influential in participating with Benton SWCD in the development of an online irrigation scheduling tool and soil health practices. For the last six years the Schlichtings have been working with Benton SWCD and NRCS on irrigation water management on 2,750 acres. They also have some of their marginal land enrolled into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to enhance wildlife habitat and to protect sensitive environmental areas, along with restoring native prairie habitat on their own.


Schlichtings have been working with the University of Minnesota on nutrient management test plots that compare side-by-side results of utilizing different application rates of commercial fertilizers and/or manure. They work with crop consultants on all acres for soil testing to determine nutrient needs for their crops, and frequently test all manure sources for nutrient content to effectively spread manure at a calibrated rate. Rick and Marlene pride themselves for their nutrient management program and diverse crop rotation. They have voluntarily been working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on a multi-year nitrate leaching study at one of their irrigated fields near Rice, and are active members of the DNR’s Little Rock Creek Sustainable Groundwater Use Project Advisory Team.


Every practice has made positive effects to preserve the cropland, protect water and maintain or increase productivity. The Schlichtings often implement practices on their own to meet their personal conservation goals and those of the community, bringing a positive public image to agriculture. Benton SWCD and NRCS send a BIG thank you to the Schlichtings for all their conservation efforts. Please join us in congratulating the Schlichtings on being awarded top honors at this year’s convention.