October 29, 2015
This post is the first in a two-part series highlighting farmers recognized as White House Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture. This post features Loretta Jaus of Gibbon, Minnesota.
On October 26, the White House honored 12 farmers and educators as White House Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture.
We congratulate all of these hardworking individuals for their important contributions to sustainable agriculture. We especially recognize two Champions of Change with NSAC member group ties, Loretta Jaus and Martin Kleinschmit, for this achievement. This post highlights Loretta’s work as a producer, educator and advocate.
Bringing ecology to the farm
While Loretta was being recognized as a Champion of Change at the White House, her husband, Martin Jaus (no relation to Martin Kleinschmit), was looking after their rotationally grazed, certified organic 60-cow dairy farm in Minnesota. Sustainable, ecologically sound practices have always been a priority for Loretta and Martin.
After studying wildlife biology and environmental education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Loretta moved to Minnesota with Martin to take over his family’s farm.
“There was a bit of a disconnect between the ecology principles that I had come to embrace and the direction that farmers seemed to be going and were being advised to go,” she recalled. “We were looking at a different direction.”
Loretta and Martin decided to transition to organic production in 1990 and started marketing milk through Organic Valley in 1997. They currently rotationally graze 105 acres of pasture, while participating in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). They have 11 acres of prairie land in CRP with two strips of shelterbelt and a dove pond. Under CSP, they monitor dung beetles, test nitrogen, support pollinators, and fill out the shelterbelts where trees are missing.
About 60 percent of the farm is in perennial or permanent vegetative cover, which has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and promoted wildlife habitats.
Finding common ground with farmers and consumers
Loretta works tirelessly as an advocate and educator, championing sustainable practices among both farmers and consumers. Her motivation for getting involved in policy work was the change in landscape that she observed in Minnesota–changes that she described as phenomenal and disturbing. She recalled farmstead after farmstead being bulldozed along her drive from the farm to the Twin Cities.
As part of her effort to maintain farmland and support sustainable agriculture, she serves on the board of two NSAC member organizations: the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. As part of her LSP work, she helped to promote white papers on crop insurance reform last year.
Loretta has also worked as an educator for CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley’s Outreach and Education Program. That was a rewarding experience, she said, and provided her a glimpse of how much consumers appreciate the work of farmers.
Loretta and Martin also engage in education on the farm by hosting an annual free dinner to bring people together. The focus of the dinner is having “good conversation about food” and finding common ground for everyone to be comfortable, she said.
Benefiting the farm
When Loretta and Martin moved to the farm in the 1980s, Martin had a banding permit so they immediately started banding birds. This has allowed them to track just how many birds they have been providing a habitat for over the years.
Back then they saw a couple dozen different bird species. Now they see almost 200 species. They have about 100 bluebird boxes on the farm, spotting up to 70 nests in one growing season.
“Initially we thought those wildlife projects are just a frill, but after awhile you see how they’re benefiting the farm,” Loretta said.
In fact, she said their ecology-based practices have benefited all of the things they care about: the soil, animal health, consumers, the list goes on.
We are so pleased that Loretta has been recognized as a Champion of Change and wish her and Martin every success as they nurture the soil, care for their farm, support their community, and work with vital organizations to back food and agricultural reform from the ground up.