R.D. Offutt Farms achieves Water Quality Certification from Minnesota Department of Agriculture

In recognition of managing farmland in a way that protects water quality, R.D. Offutt’s Twin Rivers Seed Farm is now certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The farm joins other growers in the state as a recognized leader for water stewardship and land management practices.

R.D. Offutt’s Twin Rivers Seed Farm, located near Staples, grows potato seed every year for the company’s commercial farms. The certification program requires an in-depth examination of field characteristics and crop rotation history, nutrients and pesticide management techniques, as well as tillage and irrigation practices.

Jim Lahn, Area Certification Specialist for the Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program, conducted a thorough review of R.D. Offutt’s seed farm operation in partnership with MDA staff members from the St. Paul office.

“R.D. Offutt’s Twin Rivers Seed Farm operation meets all the requirements to earn the Water Quality Certification,” Lahn said. “This program is an excellent way for farmers to tell the story of the good things they are doing to protect water quality — and those very things are happening at R.D. Offutt’s seed farm.”

Keith McGovern, President of R.D. Offutt Farms and son-in-law of founder Ron Offutt, oversees the family-owned operation. McGovern became interested in the certification program to demonstrate RDO’s commitment to regenerative agriculture.

“As farmers, we rely on the soil, water and sun to grow our crop,” McGovern said. “Since our founding nearly 60 years ago, R.D. Offutt Farms has managed natural resources to ensure that they thrive today and for generations to follow. We are proud of earning this certification that acknowledges our commitment to protect those natural resources.”

About the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices to protect water.

R.D. Offutt’s Twin Rivers Seed Farm joins more than 1,300 Minnesota producers farming nearly 975,000 acres that are now certified under the Minnesota program.

To achieve certification, R.D. Offutt Farm Manager Jake Jacobson provided Lahn with detailed information and records to assess the farm’s operations. Lahn said the farm has implemented many conservation practices to protect water quality:

  • Long crop rotation: Potato seed is only planted one out of every four years per field. Jacobson’s team works with neighbors and other farmers to rotate crops, a practice that has numerous soil health benefits and interrupts pest cycles associated with each crop.
  • Cover crops: Cover crops are planted on all R.D. Offutt Farm fields coming out of potato seed production in the fall and going into potato seed production the next spring. A variety of cover crops are planted, including rye, oats, mustard and radish. Cover crops slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability and increase biodiversity.
  • Minimum tillage: The farm has decreased its tillage practices by 50 percent over the past three years. Now, the fields are tilled only one time, incorporating cover crops into the soil before planting potato seed each spring. Minimal soil manipulation creates successful crop production.
  • Irrigation Management: Fields are only irrigated when moisture sensors indicate a need. Jacobson’s team members utilize remote monitoring to manage irrigation practices and precise, center pivot systems with drop down, low-pressure nozzles to conserve water and power.

As the assessment wrapped up and Jacobson learned the certification was approved, he said he is proud of the farm’s efforts to protect water quality.

“The certification validated that we are employing the right conservation practices and managing our operation well,” Jacobson said.

About R.D. Offutt’s Twin Rivers Seed Farm

The Twin Rivers Seed Farm is part of R.D. Offutt Farms, a family owned and operated potato farming operation with more than 10 company and partner farms across Minnesota.

McGovern said the seed farm plays a pivotal role in the overall operation because the company grows nearly all its own seed, ensuring maximum control over quality and enhanced traceability. In this way, the farm can increase confidence in the safety and caliber of its potatoes.

Growing potato seed is a multi-year process. In the first year, the seed starts as a tissue-culture plantlet in a greenhouse, then is subsequently grown for three more seasons. Two of those growing years take place at R.D. Offutt’s seed farm in Atkinson, Nebraska, then the final year at the Twin Rivers Seed Farm.

During the seed’s final growing year in Staples, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture inspects the seed three times throughout the planting season and conducts a winter growth test before certifying that the seed is ready for commercial planting.

“In our seed operation and throughout our all fields, we are constantly looking for ways to keep learning and building on our long history of sustainably growing potatoes,” said McGovern.