News & Events

Woodkes Named Stevens SWCD Outstanding Conservationist 2019

Congratulations to Derek and Darin Woodke of Morris and Kensington for being selected as Stevens County’s Outstanding Conservationists for 2019. Derek and Darin farm the Woodke home farm in Swan Lake Township, as well as farming land in several surrounding townships. They have farmed, working closely with their parents, Steve and Molly Woodke, and their uncle Loren Woodke, for over 15 years. Steve, Loren and their grandfather Donald Woodke were the Stevens Outstanding Conservationists in 1995, so the Woodke roots in conservation stewardship and environmental efforts go deep. Derek and Darin grew up with the positive influence of their family and neighbors to help them make lasting improvements on their farms, with conservation as a priority.

Both Darin and Derek have made it a priority to work on soil health and increase environmental practices on their land. They have worked closely with NRCS and Stevens SWCD to incorporate EQIP, CSP and nutrient management on their land. The Woodkes have been certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). Through this whole-farm evaluation, they identified more opportunities to utilize conservation practices that will improve their land. Their goal is to improve land quality while producing crops more efficiently.

Derek and Darin credit landlord Jerome Winter as being a driving force behind their use of no-till/strip-till and cover crops. Winter was already using these practices when the Woodkes began renting his farmland. The Woodkes continued these practices and immediately started seeing the benefits in soil health. They have been buying equipment to be able to incorporate the same practices on more of their land. Derek and Darin have also been proactively installing sediment dams to decrease erosion on their acres. They have evaluated their soil, by grid or zone sampling, and are transitioning to variable rate anhydrous application so they apply only what fertilizer is needed.

The Woodkes put lot of time and planning into doing the right things with their land and leaving a legacy for their families. Derek is married to Elysia and they have three children: Britney, Brady and Brendon. Darin and his wife Alexis have one son, James. We are proud of the Woodkes for the conservation work they do and the passion they have for conserving their land for future generations.  The Woodkes will be honored as Stevens SWCD Outstanding Conservationist for 2019, at the Minnesota Association of Conservation Districts Convention in Bloomington on December 10, 2019.


Zebra mussels discovered in Stevens County

As lakeshore owners on Perkins Lake were removing their docks and lifts for the season, several reported finding zebra mussels on their equipment. The area DNR invasive species specialist confirmed the reports on October 8th in multiple locations of the lake. Additionally, they found one zebra mussel at the public water access site on County Highway 20 between North and Middle Pomme de Terre. No mussels were located during a search downstream at the Pomme de Terre Reservoir.

Carefully inspect your equipment coming out of the water for zebra mussels or any other invasive species. Look on the posts, wheels, and underwater support bars of docks and lifts, as well as any parts of boats, pontoons, and rafts that may have been submerged in water for an extended period.

If you believe you have found an invasive species in another Stevens County lake, send your report with a picture and location to the Stevens SWCD or the area DNR invasive species specialist.

A few things to remember when taking your boat to the lake:

  • Inspect and clean your boat and equipment before leaving the water access
  • Drain water from boat, live-well, drain-bilge, etc. with water-draining devices or by removing drain plugs
  • You may not transport aquatic plants, zebra mussels, or other prohibited species on any roadway

To remove or kill zebra mussels, take precautions before moving to another waterbody, especially after leaving infested waters:

  • Spray with high-pressure water
  • Rinse with very hot water (120°F for at least 2 minutes; or 140°F for at least 10 seconds)
  • Dry for at least 5 days

Area DNR Invasive Species Specialist: Mark Ranweiler (218) 739-7576 ext.254 or

Steve & Wanda Howe Named Stevens SWCD 2018 Outstanding Conservationists

Congratulations to Steve and Wanda Howe of Chokio for being selected as Stevens County’s Outstanding Conservationists for 2018. They are pictured here with their son Levi in a rain garden on their property that was constructed by Stevens SWCD. Steve and Wanda have been part of his family farm for over 28 years. They have five children. His dad Richard started farming near Chokio in Baker and Stevens Townships in 1953, where his grandpa Gordon farmed prior to that. The family has nearly reached the century farm mark. Steve’s mom Bonnie still lives on the home farm today. His dad was always conservation-minded and continued to plant trees year after year and set aside land for wildlife habitat and for his family to hunt and enjoy.

Today Steve and his brother have nearly 500 acres in WRP, CRP and CREP. He has converted his tillable land from corn and beans to alfalfa, implementing Forage and Biomass Planting and Forage Harvest Management plans as part of his participation in the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). These practices are designed to decrease soil erosion and increase soil health by adding a deep-rooted crop to decrease compaction. The land also provides wildlife cover over the winter and he can use the additional forage for his cattle. Steve was one of the first in the state to set up a grazing plan on a permanent Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) easement. He runs his cow/calf pairs on his WRP acreage using a grazing plan developed under NRCS standards. Grazing an easement area like this creates a light disturbance for wildlife and improves grassland health on his property. Howe has also installed a rain garden in his back yard to divert rain water away from his house and filter the runoff to improve water quality. He also enjoys the added benefits of beauty and increased wildlife and pollinators seen around his yard.

Howe and his brother John were recently certified in Stevens County through the MAWQCP (Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program).

Steve has plans for a shelterbelt renovation next year and is always looking for new ways to implement conservation on this farm. The Howes are committed to using their farm for wildlife habitat and as a place where their family can enjoy the outdoors and hunting for years to come. Congratulations on making your farm a conservation legacy in Stevens County!

Three Stevens SWCD supervisors up for election in November 2018

November 6th is election day and SWCD supervisor candidates will be on the ballots across Minnesota. Click here to find out more about the Stevens SWCD supervisors and the election process.

Each county in Minnesota has five elected supervisors.  Please check out the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’s video and learn about the important work that SWCDs across the state are doing!

Putting Conservation on the Land!

Our Mission

The mission of the Stevens Soil & Water Conservation District is to work with county landowners in putting conservation practices on the land and to help all citizens be good stewards of our natural resources.