Meschke honored for work in sustainable ag

FAIRMONT – Linda Meschke was recognized with the Distinguished Service to Sustainable Agriculture Award this week.

The award, given by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, is reserved for a farmer or non-farmer who has shown dedication to supporting sustainable agriculture.

Meschke definitely fits the bill.

The Fairmont woman is president and founder of Rural Advantage; the supervisor for Soil and Water Conservation District in Martin County; and associate fellow of the Institute for the Environment at the University of Minnesota,

“Sustainable agriculture is in the news a lot right now,” said John Mesko, executive director of Sustainable Farming Association. “(The award) is for people who were doing it before it was cool.”

Meschke has been working on sustainable ag and water resource issues in the local area for more than 35 years.

It is her work with third crops that led her to receive the award, she said.

A third crop is vegetation besides corn or soybeans that is planted in fields to build soil health, reduce nitrogen leakage, reduce pesticide use, minimize soil erosion and reduce the speed that water moves across the landscape. But third crops aren’t all Meschke does to improve the environment.

In 2004 she began to develop the concept of using perennial biomass to supply local renewable energy, provide clean water, sustain family farms, and increase business opportunities.

The project, called the Madelia Model, is in the planning stages.

According to Meschke, the ideas she and her partners have developed have led to more than $10 million in projects in the Greater Blue Earth River watershed and has resulted in an estimated pollution reduction of 9 percent.

Meschke’s ability to work with so many different groups is an asset to her work, said Mesko.

“The thing about Linda is that she is a great connector,” he said. “She is good at connecting resources across the region.”

Kelly Firkins, secretary with the South Central Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association, said she nominated Meschke for the award because of her work with third crops at Rural Advantage, as well as her ability to motivate the other board members in her chapter since she joined last year.

“She has really been pushing our chapter forward,” Firkins said. “Motivating us, encouraging us, giving us advice. She really has gone above and beyond what a regular board member does.”