Headwaters Agriculture Sustainability Partnership

The Headwaters Agriculture Sustainability Partnership (HASP), created in 2018, is a unique collaboration of public, private, and non-profit partners deploying solutions in Central Minnesota. The solutions benefit the environment, economic viability of farmers, and vitality of rural communities. The partnership serves both agricultural and environmental communities as a forum where innovative ideas can be considered, supported, accelerated and implemented with the partnership’s diverse experience, skills, and networks.

Current Projects

Return on Investment Project (ROI)

Project Results

Three Stearns County dairy farmers are a part of the Return-on-Investment project to explore the connections between conservation practices and profitability. All three farmers are enrolled in the Farm Business Management program where they work with instructors to conduct economic analyses of their farm operations. Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District works with the farmers to gather environmental data, which is entered into Field to Market’s FieldPrint calculator. Houston Engineering, Inc. analyzes both financial and environmental data to understand the impacts of conservation practices.

HASP partners have collected and analyzed two years of data which indicate that participating farmers have higher crop yields, lower production costs, and healthier soils than the average farms in their region. Learn more about each farm in this interesting report, also available as a PDF (7 MB). Hear more from the farmers about their conservation practices in this on-farm video.

What is the Return on Investment Project?

The Return on Investment Project (ROI) was launched in May 2019 by HASP to research and assess the on-farm financial and environmental impacts of implementing conversation practices. The Partnership seeks to prove during a 3-5 year period that on-farm conservation practices make farms more economically sustainable, while protecting the land and other natural resources.

Project partners are working with three integrated dairy farms in Stearns County to develop a series of case studies on the economic and environmental impact of farming conversation practices. Each farm includes dairy and row crop production; however, each farm is a different size, utilizes different farming practices, and has exhibited different environmental benefits.

Why is this Project Significant?

In order for farmers to make informed decisions about their farm, they must understand the financial implications and environmental benefits of various conservation practices. This is one of the industry’s first robust case studies focusing on the return on investment of on-farm conservation.

While informative data is crucial for farmers when making decisions about conservation practices, it isn’t useful if the farmer doesn’t trust the source or understand the relevance. This project will employ farmer-to-farmer outreach and education efforts to share case study results and encourage more farmers to adopt conservation practices.

All Acres for Our Water

What is All Acres for Our Water?

All Acres for Our Water is a collaboration between public and private organizations that work one-on-one with the farmers residing within the Sauk River watershed to implement low risk, cost effective conservation practices to ensure every acre of land is put to its best use to achieve a strong agriculture economy and a healthy environment. Partners including Stearns County Soil Water Conservation District, The Nature Conservancy of Minnesota and Minnesota Land Trust help farmers explore conservation practices suited to their individual farm. Additionally, the project team engages in with agricultural retailers working within the watershed to increase their capacity to provide technical expertise on soil health and nutrient management services.

How does the approach work?

The project team works one-on-one with farmers to identify ways to improve their operations by adopting conservation practices such as no-till, a grass waterway, cover cops, and precision nutrient management. Farmers are connected with technical experts and agronomists who can guide them to resources relevant for the conservation practices that make sense for their farm. Whole-farm conservation practices protect our land and water while providing benefits to the farm both in the short and long term.

Learn more about the All Acres for Water project.

Ecosystem Services Market Consortium

What is the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium?

Formed in May 2019, the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium (ESMC), originally a subsidiary of the Soil Health Institute, aims to develop and scale an ecosystem services market-delivery approach that provides financial incentives to farmers to improve soil health systems. ESMC has conceived and designed pilot projects across the nation that leverage the benefits of ecosystem services — water quality, soil health, and carbon sequestration — to create a marketplace encouraging the sustainable use of natural capital.

What is the ESMC Minnesota Pilot Project?

Through funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, ESMC, The Nature Conservancy, and the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District have launched a pilot project in Central Minnesota, one of 10 occurring across the nation. The project will be troubleshoot and develop efficiencies for defining and selling carbon, water quality, and water quantity credits resulting from long-term practices on sustainably managed farmland. ESMC partners will collaborate with agricultural businesses and stakeholders to enroll 50,000 acres of dairy farm and row crop operations within the Sauk River watershed in the program. Project partners will test data protocols and processes to understand the challenges and successes of the ESMC approach.

How do Farmers Benefit?

This market-approach to leveraging the benefits of ecosystem services is scalable and will generate a market for natural capital, while ensuring that farmers reap the benefits. This approach is also designed to accelerate adoption of conservation practices within the farming industry: as the market for environmentally sound farming practices grow, and as more farmers implement these practices, participating farmers will realize a greater incentive to continue to integrate conservation into their farm’s operations.


Headwaters Agricultural Sustainability Partnership’s Goals

Advise within a diverse and trusted forum for incubating and evolving ideas and projects that benefit both agriculture and the environment. Project ideas may be brought forward by HASP members or outside organizations for discussion and guidance.

Accelerate the development and implementation of solutions that are aligned with the mission of HASP by:

  • Introducing ideas and projects to potential supporters and project partners, including farmer leaders and local implementers.
  • Identifying and connecting ideas and projects to potential resources for implementation.
  • Working with HASP members and external partners to refine current efforts and new ideas to improve outcomes, eliminate barriers, and create a path towards scale.

Implement farmer-led innovative solutions to accelerate continuous improvements in our environment, particularly for water quality, soil health, habitat, and climate protection. HASP will implement some projects while partnering with outside organizations to support the implementation of others.

Lead as a trusted connection between farmers and the general public, providing collaborative, quantifiable, environmental solutions and improvements today and tomorrow.

Thank You to Our Generous Funders

HASP funders are dedicated to advancing the viability of farmers and the vitality of rural communities.