Houston County has a rich tradition of farming, and family farms still dot the landscape here in Southeast Minnesota. 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 1940’s, and has been farming as long as he can remember. “I remember in the mid-80’s 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,” says Bob.
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,” explained Bob. “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,” says Bob. “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,” says 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 Scanlan’s 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,” says Bob “I hope my kids have an opportunity to someday raise livestock on the farm – I hope to see this continue.”