Houston County has a rich tradition of farming, and family farms still dot the landscape. Development has accelerated however, leading to the loss of some cherished family farms and putting the health of our waterways at risk. Thanks to Bob and Michelle Scanlan though, one family farm will be protected forever through the Minnesota Land Trust.
Bob Scanlan grew up spending summers working on the farm, first established by his grandfather outside of Brownsville in the 1940s, and has been farming as long as he can remember.
“I remember in the mid-’80s I was a teenager and we were farming it hard — fence row to fence row — I remember pulling up fences to make the fields bigger,” he said.
Bob eventually purchased the family farm from his mother, and began working to find a balance between the farm and the natural lands around it.
“A lot of this isn’t suited for row crops, it’s too close to sensitive environmental areas,” Bob said. “Instead I developed a managed intensive grazing system that allows forages to grow back, and grow deeper roots. I found myself putting fences back in place where my grandparents had fences. It made sense to refocus on livestock — commodity prices for corn and beans weren’t that great, and the topography of the farm, with its low lands and wetlands, it was just more suited for cattle.”
Recently development has accelerated around the farm, and formerly natural areas and farms are being turned into new subdivisions. Faced with the prospect of losing the lands that meant so much to his family for generations, Bob and Michelle turned to the Minnesota Land Trust.
Working with the Land Trust, the Scanlans were able to protect 98 acres of their farm with a conservation easement, ensuring it’ll stay protected from development forever. “With this I’m able to keep farming my land the way I have been, graze cattle, and protect the environmental integrity of my land,” Bob said. “It’s a win-win.”
The Scanlan property isn’t just good for the cattle, it’s good for the Mississippi River — by retiring intensive row crop farming around Wildcat Creek and allowing native plants to regain a foothold, Bob is helping to protect the water quality of this threatened waterway. In addition, the property is in a critical flyway for migratory birds; and sandhill cranes, bald eagles, and several types of raptors have been spotted along Wildcat Creek on the property.
“Many of the waterways that feed into the Mississippi here in the Driftless are in private hands, making protection projects like this incredibly important if we’re going to protect the water quality of that river,” said Nick Bancks, program manager for the Minnesota Land Trust. “Even better, this connects to another Land Trust protected property, compounding the benefit of what Bob and Michelle have done with their land.”
In the end, the Scanlans’ decision was about family, and making sure the family farm continues to operate well into the future, managed by people who love and are connected to the land.
“With this, we’re able to protect our lands for future generations from development, and maintain our grazing opportunities. Eventually we’ll transfer it to the next generation,” Bob said. “I hope my kids have an opportunity to someday raise livestock on the farm — I hope to see this continue.”
This permanent conservation easement was made possible by the members of the Minnesota Land Trust, with funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature and recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC).
About the Minnesota Land Trust
The Minnesota Land Trust is a membership-based non-profit organization. Its mission is to protect and restore Minnesota’s most vital natural lands to provide wildlife habitat, clean water, outdoor experiences, and scenic beauty for generations to come. The organization has completed 560 conservation projects statewide, permanently protecting more than 56,000 acres of natural and scenic land and more than a million feet of fragile shoreline.
A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or other qualified agency that permanently limits certain uses of land in order to protect its conservation values. Landowners continue to own and enjoy the land and pay property taxes. Once created, the conservation easement is binding on all future owners of the property. More information on Minnesota Land Trust can be found at www.mnland.org.