Ryan Pesch, Pelican Rapids, was recently recognized by the West Otter Tail Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the MN Department of Agriculture for meeting the standards of Minnesota’s Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). 

Ryan Pesch (left) receives the MAWQCP sign from Aaron Larsen of West Otter Tail SWCD.

 The certification represents an acknowledgement of the outstanding attention to water quality related management that Ryan is doing in his vegetable production operation, noted Aaron Larsen of West Otter Tail SWCD.

Ryan, and his wife Maree, began their current Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) endeavor in 2004.  They currently grow produce for about 100 customers in the CSA plus provide product to both the Perham Health Hospital and the Manna Food Coop (Detroit Lakes).  A variety of seasonal produce is provided each week.

Ryan grows over 300 varieties of 30 vegetable crops each year on his farm. A solar greenhouse is used to start transplants in March for out-planting once the threat of frost has passed. A couple unique challenges he faces is being able to provide a continuous harvest of as many crops as possible for as long as possible and managing many different crops to correctly time out planting and harvest. Those who garden know that many vegetables perform best during a specific time of the growing season and the vegetables can also mature differently based on weather conditions. Cover crops are an integral part of the operation and Ryan notes the benefits in helping control weeds, protect sensitive plants, improve soil health and control erosion.  Nutrients, in limited amounts, are applied based on the crop to be grown and are from organic sources. A new micro-irrigation system will be installed this year to help increase germination success for small seeded crops and meet crop water needs in times of deficit precipitation. Micro-irrigation greatly reduces the amount of water used, applies the water at pin-point locations and reduces evaporation.  Ryan is a certified organic grower which demands rigorous reporting and record keeping requirements each year.

Ryan also has a full-time off the farm job with the University of Minnesota working as an Extension Educator in Community Development.  His job requires him to conduct applied research and lead workshops and consult on retail market analysis, economic development, and tourism and business development.  Small wonder that he is able to also be a successful vegetable producer also!

Lida Farm near Pelican honored as
Agriculture Water Quality Certified FarmThe MN Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program is sponsored locally, in each county, by the Soil & Water Conservation District.  The program currently has over 750 certified farms encompassing over 500,000 acres of Minnesota agricultural lands.  In order to meet certification standards, a rigorous assessment of the operation resources, soils, nutrient management, crops, tillage and other practices is performed.  Farmers and landowners with interest in the Water Quality Certification Program should contact the West Otter Tail Office at (218) 998-5300.