The Pine Soil and Water Conservation District is pleased to announce that Randy Hinze of Pine City, and a Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certified farmer, is the 2023 Pine SWCD Outstanding Conservationist of the year. Randy was chosen because of his commitment to soil conservation, water quality, and soil health throughout his row crop operation.
Randy is a 3rd generation farmer. His grandfather started The Hinze Farm as a dairy operation with a 130-acre homestead. Randy started farming in 1986 with his father and together they expanded the farm to about 400 acres. In 2020, the farm made the transition from dairy to mostly small grains and row crops with about 10 head of beef cattle for direct marketing.
When his dad retired, his brother and wife had off farm jobs and Randy was farming alone. With row crops and dairy cattle, the farm was too much work for one person. Randy started to look for ways to save time and he came up with no-till. In 2005, he bought a 6 row no-till planter. He expanded the practice overtime and now his farm is 100 percent no-till and he’s even sold the tillage equipment. He saves time because he can plant directly into the previous year’s stubble and he has less equipment to manage and maintain. Randy says, “I have fun doin’ it. It gets boring working the ground steady. It’s a challenge and you get to try different things.”
In addition to no-till Randy has started incorporating cover crops into rotation. He has been adding rye and radish after his small grains harvest for many years. This year, he has expanded the cover crops to corn and soybeans through an EQIP contract. He interseeded rye and radish with his fertilizer application on corn and broadcast rye and clover seed into his soybeans before harvest.
Randy has tried many conservation practices including cover crops, a livestock exclusion fence, water and sediment control basins (WASCOBs), native buffer plantings, grassed waterways and a native habitat restoration project. To install these practices, he has partnered with the Natural Resources Conservation Services(NRCS), Pine SWCD, and the Minnesota Land Trust.
Through a partnership with the SWCD and NRCS Randy has installed five water and sediment control basins (WASCOBs) and has two more planned. The rolling hills on the Hinze farm create swales, that hold water, and deep washouts. They used to chisel plow the swales and washouts but they lost soil and there were still areas that couldn’t be planted. Randy felt there must be a better solution to these problems. In response to this, his father said “It’s been washing for 100 years and it’ll be washing for 100 more.” Despite this sentiment, Randy still felt he could do better. WASCOBs are designed to reduce gully erosion by slowing the water with a vegetated berm and releasing it slowly through a tile line. Since their installation, the gullies and washouts haven’t returned.
Aerial image of the Hinze WASCOB project.
Through the combination of no-till, WASCOBS, and grassed water ways, it seems that the low spots are drying out faster and he’s able to plant through areas that were historically too wet. Jon Schmidt, an agronomist for Peterson’s Mill, says the ground “definitely dries up faster. You’re (Randy) the first one combining in the fall and the first one planting in the spring.”
The Hinze farmstead borders Rock Lake in the Lower Saint Croix Watershed. His multi layered approach to conservation protects this water body and improves Randy’s ability to farm the land. His dedication is illustrated in the lush green crops, the swaths of native vegetation, and shining blue water. According to Randy, “as long as you keep it clean here and it ends up in the lake fairly clean. That’s what it’s all about.”