Each year, Benton SWCD and NRCS present an award for the Benton County Outstanding Conservation Cooperators (OCC). This award is important because it recognizes individuals and organizations for outstanding accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota's natural resource


2016 Benton Outstanding Cooperators - Rick and Marlene Schlichting and Minnesota's 2016 Outstanding Conservationist of the Year!!!

Rick and Marlene Schlichting of Rice have been selected by the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) as the 2016 Outstanding Conservation Cooperators of the Year. The Schlichting's Crop farm consists of 6,300 acres of land with a rotation of edible beans, corn, potatoes, alfalfa and rye. They also have a hog farm with 900 sows and with 22,000 butcher pigs.

Below are just a few of the things the Schlichtings have implemented over the past few years:

  • Planted field windbreaks and restored/maintained existing windbreaks where possible around all 65 fields they own.
  • Established a 30 acre Balsam Fir plantation.
  • Restored a 12 acre wetland.
  • Maintain 8 food plots.
  • Used reduced tillage to increase the amount of residue and help reduce blowing sand.
  • For 20 years have planted cover crops.          
    •  1,600 acres of cover crops after potatoes          
    •  2,000 acres of cover crops following edible beans
  • Use a light disk after fall harvest to keep corn residue on the soil surface.
  • Use crop scouting (physically walk the fields) at least weekly for all crops, potatoes are scouted twice a week.
  • Farmers typically terminated potato plants with herbicides before harvest to improve the quality and storage length of the potato.  The Schlichtings have started using mechanical methods, a stalk chopper, to kill the plant before harvest.
  • Have converted all 65 irrigation systems from high water pressure to low water pressure to save water, energy and improve performance.
  • Worked directly with Benton SWCD and NRCS for the last 6 years on irrigation water management for 2,750 acres.
  • Have participated in the development of an on-line irrigation scheduling tool.
  • Work with crop consultant on all acres for:          
    • Manure testing          
    • Spreader calibrations for all manure sources          
    • Soil testing on all fields
  • Working with the University of Minnesota on nutrient management test plots          
    • Side by side comparisons of different rates of fertilizers and/or manure
  • Working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on a multi-year nitrate leaching study at one of their irrigated fields near Rice and volunteer the site for community outreach and demonstration.
  • Converted some crop and wooded land to 100 foot wide buffer strip along Little Rock Creek as part of a stream bank stabilization project.          
    • Stabilized 7,920 linear feet of the Little Rock Creek using natural vegetation.
  • Rick Schlichting, manager of Prairie Farms Company, believes native prairies in the area should be preserved.  Many acres of crop land have been turned back into the prairies they once were.
  • Marlene and Rick are both members of the DNR's Little Rock Creek Sustainable Groundwater Use Project Advisory Team.

As owners of Schlichting Farms and manager of Prairie Farm Company, they are true stewards of the land and implement many conservation practices on their own. Every practice has made positive effects to preserve the cropland, protect water and maintain or increase productivity. The Schlichtings often implement practices on their own, without government agency assistance, to meet their personal conservation goals and those of the community. Benton SWCD and NRCS send a BIG thank you to the Schlichtings for all their conservation efforts. Please join us in congratulating the Schlichtings on being selected for this award.


Past OCC Winners

2016 - Rick and Marlene Schlichting (Watab and Langola Township)  - State Winner 2016 Outstanding Conservationist Award
2015 - Ed, Kathy and Eddy Popp (Langola Township)
2014 - Mark & Pam Skroch (Langola Township)
2013- Jon Hansmeier (Glendorado Township)
2012 - Roy & Cindy Schneider & Family (Glendorado Township)
2011 - Guy Spence and Maureen Graber (Watab Township)
2010 - Lonnie Greener (Maywood Township)
2009 - Brian & Glen Kaschmitter (Mayhew Lake Township)
2002 - Chuck & Debbie Kaproth (St. George Township)
2001 - Rick & Donna Lovitz (Minden Township)
2000 - Larry & Esther Hackett (Graham Township)
1999 - John & Betty Mastey (Alberta Township)
1998 - Clarence & Jeanice Adelman (St. George Township)
1997 - Doug & Lori Lezer (Gilmanton Township)
1996 - Mike, Lynda & Muriel Gans (Graham Township)
1995 - Tim & Carol Wruck & Sons (Alberta Township)
1994 - Joe & Theresa Jordan (Glendorado Township)
1993 - Kevin & Lora Lee Adelman (St. George Township)
1992 - Alvin & Elaine Kloss (E. Langola Township)
1991 - Joe & Claudette Czeck, Mark & Shelly Czeck (Gilmanton Township)
1990 - Rice Sportsmen's Club
*Before 1990, the award was known as the Benton County Star Conservation Farmers
1989 - John & Dawn Linkert (Mayhew Lake Township)
1988 - John & Phyliss Kaproth (St. George Township)
1987 - Sylvester & Elaine Krueger (Mayhew Lake Township)
1986 - Raymond & Clarence Bromenschenkel (Minden Township)
1985 - Russel & Sandy Studenski (Mayhew Lake Township)
1984 - Robert & Mary Carlson (Maywood Township)
1983 - Raymond & Evelyn Beehler (Gilmanton Township)
1982 - Robert & Janet Abfalter (St. George Township)
1981 - Pete Winkelman & Sons (Glendorado Township)
1980 - Larry & Loris VanHooser (Alberta Township)
1979 - Bruce Olsen (Graham Township)
1978 - Ken Neeser (Minden Township)
1977 - Al Gapinski (Gilmanton Township)
1976 - Ernie Haehnel (Sauk Rapids & Watab Townships)
1975 - Tom Blissenbach (Mayhew Lake Township)
1974 - John Gans (Graham Township)
1973 - Zwick Bros. (Sauk Rapids Township)
1972 - Orville Mielke (Sauk Rapids Township)
1970 - Edman Lezer (Gilmanton Township)
1969 - Lloyd Rudnitski (Alberta Township)
1968 - Al Bechtold (Mayhew Lake Township)
1967 - Alfred Studanski (Mayhew Lake Township)
1966 - Arthur Uhing (Langola Township)
1965 - WM. Krauel (Granite Ledge Township)
1964 - WM. Kranz (Alberta Township)
1963 - Kevin Latterell (St. George Township)
1962 - Art Studenski (Mayhew Lake Township)
1961 - Leo Tracy (St. George Township)
1960 - Roy Weigenant (Graham Township)
1959 - Jerome Lubbesmeier (Mayhew Lake Township)
1958 - Jim Latterrell (Good Year) (St. George Township)
1957 - Conrad Emmerich (Glendorado Township)
1956 - Ed Neeser (Minden Township)
1955 - Elmer & Clarence Ruhoff (Gilmanton & St. George Townships)
1954 - Henry Frerich (Watab Township)
1953 - Ernest Foss (Graham Township)
1952 - Ronald Vierkant (Minden Township)
1951 - Tony Ebnet (Minden Township)
1950 - Jess Jacobsen (St. George Township)
1949 - Donald Talbert (Minden Township)