Saginaw Valley Farmers Honored as Soil Health Heroes

The Nature Conservancy has honored four farmers and an agribusiness professional for agricultural conservation in the Saginaw Bay watershed.

Soil Health Hero Awards were presented in the following categories:

Impact: Pohl Dairy (Mt. Pleasant, MI) – A farm applying conservation practices with significant and sizable environmental benefits.

Innovation: Don Morse, Morse Farms (Birch Run, MI) – A farmer applying new or experimental conservation practices.

Legacy: Nate Rupprecht, King Street Dairy (Vassar, MI) – A farmer applying conservation practices for more than seven years.

Newcomer: Scott Brechtelsbauer (Reese, MI) – A farmer applying conservation practices for the first time (within three years).

Agribusiness: Lisa Woodke, Star of the West Milling Co. (Frankenmuth, MI) – An agribusiness professional who has shown exemplary support and participation in agricultural conservation efforts.

Awardees were peer-nominated and selected by a committee of cross-cutting agricultural partners.

“These farms are examples of how soil health practices can support resilient, thriving farms, while still protecting local water resources,” said Ben Wickerham, Saginaw Bay Project Manager for TNC. “Healthy, stable soil is important for healthy waterways and sustainable food production, which is why TNC works with farmers to help them implement these types of practices.”

“By sharing my story, and all the trial and errors that go with it, I hope we’re making it easier for others to be successful,” said Don Morse of Morse Farms. “Saving soil is just plain good for agriculture. And if you can reduce some input costs along the way, that’s also good for the bottom line”.

Soil health practices — such as reduced tillage, cover crops and nutrient management — can help reduce input costs, buffer farm fields against weather extremes and protect water quality. This benefits all Michiganders, and the lakes and lands we love.

“Now more than ever, conservation and crop production have a symbiotic relationship and these awards are a great way to showcase that when we work together, we all benefit,” Wickerham said. “TNC wants to help tell the story of these farmers — of their innovations and successes — and show not only are these practices doable, but they help a farm’s bottom line, too.”

About 20% of Michigan’s agricultural acres are located in the 5.5-million-acre Saginaw Bay watershed. This watershed features Michigan’s highest concentration of prime farmland, an abundance of water resources, and ideal soil and growing conditions that support a diversity of crops not seen anywhere else in the Midwest.

The watershed drains into Saginaw Bay, which provides drinking water to several major communities. It also supports a thriving recreational fishery and boating industry, attracts thousands of visitors each year and is a critical area for migratory birds and Lake Huron fisheries.

To learn more about the Soil Health Hero Awards, including stories on this year’s winners, visit