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Borths are SWCD Conservationists of the Year

Daran and Christina Borth, along with their children Dustin and Derek (not pictured), were recently named as Outstanding Conservationists of the Year by the Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District. Daran Borth says he believes conservation is important to preserve the land for future generations — not just his sons, but his grandchildren too. VICKI GERDES/TRIBUNE

Since 1998, Daran and Christina Borth have owned and operated a beef cattle, dairy and grain farm in rural Menahga.

“All that was here was a house, an old garage, a loafing shed and hay shed,” said Daran Borth.

Today, the farm is not only home to the Borths and their two sons, Derek, 17, and Dustin, 14, but also to about 60 head of dairy cows and 10-20 beef steers at any given time.

The Borths also raise corn, oats, barley and alfalfa on 500 acres of land, both owned and rented.

Over the years, they have made a point of instituting environmentally friendly agricultural practices such as cutting their hay in a horseshoe pattern, which is more conducive to wildlife; keeping year-round vegetation cover on their crop land, to reduce all types of erosion; and incorporating fresh manure into the soil within 24 hours of application, to prevent leaching of nitrogen.

Some of the other conservation practices they have instituted include rotational grazing of livestock and the use of a center-pivot irrigation system — despite the fact that implementing both of these practices together has presented a bit of a challenge.

“Our grazing system is not quite up to where we want it yet — it’s a work in progress,” says Borth.

The family is also in the process of converting their operation to an all-organic farm; Borth says the certification process should be completed by the end of January.

One of the biggest changes in the Borths’ operation occurred about five years ago, when they installed an ag waste management system with funding assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

“Otherwise (without EQIP funding) we wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Borth said. “For us, it’s been a blessing.”

The Borths also do a lot of sampling of their manures and crops to see whether they are deficient in certain nutrients, or whether the amounts present are too high for optimum crop production.

“We also do tissue samples of our corn, to see if our nitrogen levels are plus or minus,” he added.

Because of these and other conservation practices that the family has implemented on their farm, the Borths were recently chosen as Outstanding Conservationists of the Year by the Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“I was surprised,” Borth said of his reaction to learning about the award. “But it does make you feel good.”

As for farming itself, Borth said, it’s the kind of occupation that “you wouldn’t do it unless you love it.”

He and Christina operate the farm together — she does most of the milking, though she did point out, “when Mom calls, they (Dustin and Derek) start running” to help.

Both of their sons are pretty involved in the farm operation, though when asked if he intends to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a farmer, Dustin said, “I’m not sure yet.”

Of course, following in their father’s footsteps wouldn’t necessary lead to a career in agriculture: In addition to running the farm, Borth is also a licensed plumber and law enforcement officer.

He started working full-time with the Frazee Police Department about a month ago, serving during the night shift.

Up until he started going for his law enforcement degree at Alexandria Technical College in 2010, Borth was a partner in a successful heating and plumbing business in Park Rapids for several years.

He went to school to become a certified plumber shortly after returning from a four-year stint in the U.S. Marines, where he served from 1990-94. (Borth is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm.)

Though he had planned to get his law enforcement degree then, he chose plumbing instead at the behest of his wife.

“It’s a little safer profession, I guess,” Borth admitted.

But the call of police work ultimately proved to be too strong to give up on that particular dream.

“I wasn’t getting any younger, and I thought, ‘Either do it now or never,’” Borth said. “There’s something about wearing that uniform that I’ve always missed. It gives your work purpose…to help out somebody that’s in trouble, it’s a warm feeling.”

In addition, he said, he had a grandfather and a great uncle who were both in law enforcement.

Borth kept working at his plumbing business right up until starting his law enforcement classes.

“I was working with a company doing a bunch of work at Alexandria Tech,” he said. “I was done with that on a Friday, and I started classes there the next Monday.”

As if all that weren’t enough, Borth has also served on the board of the Menahga Co-op, where he was a director for two years before they completed a merger with Lakes Area Co-op in Perham, then served on the Lakes Area Co-op board for another year to complete his three-year term.

For all that he and his family do in the interests of conservation, the Borths will be presented with their Conservationist of the Year award at the annual Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) conference in Bloomington, which is set for Dec. 1-3.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454