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Recharging for Spring!

The hard soil and four months of snow make the inhabitants of the
northern temperate zone wiser and abler than his fellow
who enjoys the fixed smile of the tropics."

 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Partners in Land and Water Conservation
Spring is on the way and we're ready! Check out the various programs
available for urban and rural Dakota County residents at
Dakota County Soil & Water
2020 Board of Supervisors

The Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is governed by a 5 member elected Board.  Each Board member represents a District within the County defined by precincts, city or township boundaries that are substantially equal in population.   The Dakota County SWCD Board meets the second Thursday of every month, 9:00 a.m., at the Dakota County Extension and Conservation Center located at 4100 220th Street in Farmington, Minnesota.

District 1
Kevin Chamberlain

District 2
Laura Zanmiller

District 3
Chelsea Skog

District 4
Bruce Johnson

District 5
Jayne Hager Dee

Click for contact information

What is Landscaping for Clean Water?

The Dakota County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) partners with cities and local Watershed Management Organizations to provide the Landscaping for Clean Water (LCW) program that includes educational workshops, design courses and grants.  Introductory Workshops focus on general water quality practices of rain gardens, native gardens, and shoreline stabilizations. Our follow-up Design Courses help residents plan and install a project in their own yard and make them eligible to apply for a grant that includes both cost-share incentives and on-site technical assistance. In 2019 garden maintenance workshops were added. Since the program's inception in 2007, there have been 4,628 people attend an Introductory Workshop (1% of Dakota County residents!) and 575 garden projects have been installed. Many thanks to all who attended the workshops and to those who have installed and maintained water quality or pollinator friendly projects. Check out the 2019 LCW Summary HERE.
Photos showing a native garden, rain garden and stabilized shoreline.

Register Now for LCW!

This season the Landscaping for Clean Water Program will include
10 Introductory Workshops, 10 Design Courses,
and 3 Maintenance Classes!

2020 LCW Information & Registration

Project Spotlight
Kimber Contour Farms

In the summer of 2019, a 3-inch torrential rain event - over the course of 45 minutes - caused significant overland flooding across portions of Dakota County. Not only was this a tremendous amount of rain in a short time frame, but 2019 overall saw record setting rainfall totals. Kurt Kimber, who operates Kimber Contours farm (an organic farm owned by Kurt and his two sisters), has witnessed the Aerial photo of Kimber farm with prairie plantings in redincreasing frequency and intensity of rainfall events and decided to take action by installing prairie strips to make the farm more resilient against the changing weather patterns. Kimber brought together experts and funding from Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District, Iowa State University’s Prairie STRIPS program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Northern Iowa University’s Tallgrass PrairiField with prairie strip between beanse Center and Xerces Society to install 19.3 acres of prairie strips across the farm. The prairie strips were planted along the contours and in areas prone to erosion. Each strip is.30 feet wide, with 240 feet between strips for efficient equipment operation. The prairie strips help to reduce erosion, build soil health, protect water quality and provide crucial habitat to wildlife – especially pollinators. It was a challenging and intense fall harvest season for the Kimbers, but they still managed to get the prairie strips installed within the deadlines they were facing. Kimber states “good stewardship is very important to us”. Kimber is a leader in taking steps towards creating a more resilient farm and being an example of a great steward of the land.

Photo top right: Red areas show where prairie strips were planted across the 240-acre farm.
Photo bottom left: Example of how Kimber's prairie strips will look next summer. Photo from Iowa State University's Prairie STRIPS Program website.

Agricultural News

USDA Announces Enrollment for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
Photo showing farm building in background with pond and farm fields in foreground.
What s the Conservation Reserve Program?
CRP is a land conservation program administered by USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.

Why is CRP important?
Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation program in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers and land owners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion, and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species. 

For additional information on the Conservation Reserve Program click HERE.

2019 Cover Crops
Planting cover crops on cultivated farm land offers a lot of ecological benefits. The vegetation helps anchor the soil, reducing erosion; it can add nutrients and beneficial microbes and insects to the soil; and it helps water infiltrate into the soil rather than running off. There are immediate and long-term benefits to local water quality, and long-term benefits to soil health and the land. Planting cover crops costs money, but can also provide long-term returns to the farmer that vary based on the specifics of their operation. 

In 2019, thirteen Dakota County landowners placed approximately 1,000 acres of cultivated land into cover crops through the SWCD's Cover Crop Incentive Program. Several of these program participants will be using cover crops over multiple years

A few landowners chose to aerial seed their cover crops this past fall. The photos below show the plane being loaded with seed and then aerial seeding a field.

Ask a Resource Conservationist!

Hello again! We have another great reader question!


Dear Dakota SWCD,

Could you describe the geological hx (history)of the area?

Thank you,


Dear Rocky,

Thanks for the solid question! Let’s start with a quick overview of Minnesota’s geologic history.

At the origin of the planet until roughly 1,100 million years ago the state’s Precambrian bedrock was formed by volcanic action and the deposition of sedimentary rock that was moved around by faulting, folding and erosion. During this period a rift formed from what is now the Great Lakes arcing through Duluth, the Twin Cities and following the Minnesota River. Had the earth’s surface not stopped shape shifting, that rift may have been the split for a new continent!

Next there were repeated incursions and run-off from the sea that formed many layers of sedimentary rock. Yes, Minnesota once had a tropical climate! Small marine animals lived in the sea and creatures resembling crocodiles and sharks could be found.

About 1.8 million years ago glaciers formed. The glaciers moved and retreated over the state eroding previous rock formations and depositing deep layers of glacial till over all but two of the state’s regions including southeastern Minnesota. Since the last glaciation did not cover this area there is no glacial drift to form subsoils, giving the region the name of the Driftless area. In Dakota County the Driftless area starts as a narrow sliver against the Mississippi, widening to the west as one goes south (staying East of State Highway 56).

    Click on thumbnail image for the Glacial Geology of Dakota County.   

From all that commotion over millions of years, Dakota County was left with the following Geologic Units:

Lower Ordovician at surface, covers 55 % of this area. Made up of dolostone, sandy to silty dolostone, and sandstone and includes the:
  • Shakopee Formation, and
  • Oneota Dolomite of the Prairie du Chien Group.
Middle and Upper Ordovician at surface, covers 35 % of this area. Made up of shale, dolomitic limestone, and sandstone and includes the:
  • Decorah Shale of the Galena Group, the Platteville and Glenwood Formations, and
  • the St. Peter Sandstone.
Upper Cambrian at surface, covers 10 % of this area. Made up of sandstone, siltstone, shale, and dolostone and includes the:
  • Jordan Sandstone and St. Lawrence Formation, and
  • the Mazomanie, Lone Rock, and Davis Formations of the Tunnel City Group.
   Click on thumbnail image for the Bedrock Geology of Dakota County.   

Now, a little Dakota County Geography for good measure...

The county terrain consists of low rolling hills, sloping to the river valleys. Its highest point is near the SW corner, at 1,037'. The county has a total area of 587 square miles, of which 562 square miles is land and 25 square miles (4.2%) is water.

Dakota County maintains a land use mixture of 1/3 urban, 1/3 suburban and1/3 rural. This combination of land use and the confluence of two major rivers (the Mississippi and Minnesota) that form the county's northern and eastern borders makes Dakota County a unique geographic area.

- Your friendly local resource conservationist


Thanks for the great question and keep them coming!

Information sources for this article include:
Research Report - An Archaeological Survey of Dakota County, Minnesota 
Minnesota IT Services - County/Regional Geology Data for Minnesota
Minnesota DNR -
University of Minnesota Libraries, Digital Conservancy - C-06 Geologic atlas of Dakota County, Minnesota
Wikipedia - Geology of Minnesota

Submit a Question to Ask a Resource Conservationist!


Winter Wonderland Trivia!

How well do you know snow? Try the questions below!

1. What is a "snow eater"? 
      A) Weather that accelerates the meltdown of snow cover
      B) A dog who likes to eat snow
      C) A new Dakota County snow plow
2. On which other planet in the Solar System have scientists observed
    snow falling?

        A) Jupiter
        B) Mars
        C) Venus

3. How much snow is equivalent to an inch of rainfall?
        A) 6 inches
        B) 13 inches
        C) 20 inches
4. What weather factor mainly determines the shape of a snowflake?
      A) Amount of moisture in the snow
      B) The air temperature
      C) The time of day it snows

5.  In which year was the Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

        A) 1935
        B) 1937
        C) 1939             
        Answers are at the end of the newsletter!

Upcoming Events

February 4: 12th Annual Nutrient Management Conference | The 12th annual Nutrient Management Conference, hosted by University of Minnesota Extension, the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, will include updates on Minnesota efforts, planned and underway, to reduce nutrient loads in surface water and protect groundwater. Researchers will present findings on nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium management. A farmer panel will discuss on-farm conservation practices.
Learn more:

February 18: 6th Annual Nitrogen Conference | University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center (MAWRC)’s Nitrogen: Minnesota's Grand Challenge and Compelling Opportunity Conference brings experts together to focus entirely on this valuable input. Current topics in crop production and environmental stewardship will be relevant and informative for today's agricultural producers and professionals and anyone else who appreciates high-quality, research-based information. Learn more:

February 20: Volunteer Training for Landscaping for Clean Water | Are you looking for volunteer opportunities in the evenings, to help local water quality and pollinator habitat? Learn how to assist people in designing raingardens and native gardens by becoming a Landscaping for Clean Water volunteer! Interested and eligible volunteers must attend training. Contact us directly for more information.

Wednesday, March 4, 9 am - 1 pm: 14th Annual Crops Day! | Crops Day will bring specialists to Dakota County to share local research results and crop management strategies with producers and other agricultural professionals. This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested. Please RSVP to Jackie at 651-463-6319 or

Wednesday, March 4, at 5 pm: Free Garden Maintenance Workshop | Join us in Mendota Heights for a free workshop on maintaining your raingarden, native garden or shoreline planting. Learn what to do in each season and how to handle common challenges. Learn more

Monday, March 9, at 6 pm: Free Landscaping for Clean Water Workshop | It's the first of ten educational, introductory workshops on native plants, raingardens, and restoring shorelines! The workshop is free, and you'll gain access to hands-on design classes and grants! Learn more.
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Reader Survey

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We will be be ready for warm weather and looking forward to sharing Dakota County SWCD updates in our Spring Newsletter!

Want to share some of these stories or photos with your friends, neighbors, or community? Please do - we love seeing our news traveling throughout the region. 
Subscribe to the SWCD Newsletter

Trivia Answers:

1.  A. Weather that accelerates the meltdown of snow cover.
2.  C. Snow has been observed on Venus.
3.  B. 13 inches of snow 
4.  B. The air temperature 
5.  B. 1937
How did you do?
Do you have an idea for a great trivia question for a future newsletter? Share it with us!
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