Gilbertson selected as 2022 Conservationist of the Year by Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District
The Gilbertson family, which operates a 1000-acre crop and livestock farm, was selected due to their rotational grazing, crop rotation plan and no-till operations. They will represent Becker County at the state convention in December and compete for the statewide title of Conservationist of the Year.
DETROIT LAKES — Brent Gilbertson has been selected as the 2022 Conservationist of the Year by the Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).
The Gilbertson family operates a 1000-acre combined farm and raises 60-100 head of mainly Angus cattle, along with a variety of rotational crops. Gilbertson was selected for the award by the county conservation district because of the farm's rotational grazing, crop rotation plan and no-till operations, said Bryan Malone, district administrator for the Becker County SWCD.
"We really appreciate Brent's efforts in leading the conservation effort around the area and his ability to try new things, and especially, to share his experience with others," said Malone.
He also said Gilbertson participated in a land agriculture forum last winter, hosted by the Becker County SWCD, to present and share his successes and struggles with other regional farmers.
"And just to have that contact, if somebody wants to try something new, they can say, 'I'll just give Brent a call, and see if he has tried this,'" he said.
Gilbertson took over the farm from his father in 2002 and in recent years has implemented plans to reduce their fuel costs and fertilizer usage through various operational changes.
"It's kinda neat because we've been doing a lot of stuff for a long time and it's been a little challenging to be unconventional and to start all that, so it's kinda nice to know that other people recognize it and you are doing things that other people think are good," said Gilbertson. "Like I always tell everybody, and I always believe that agriculture is always changing. And I do think this, the no-till, all this stuff is going to be the next wave of the future, and someday if my kids decide to farm, they are not going to be out there with chisel plows and rippers. This is where we're going."
No-till farming means Gilbertson doesn't till his soil after a harvest, which is a regular practice but can increase the amount of soil erosion, and instead, plants cover crops or a variety of other crops that naturally increase the nutrient levels of the soil without the need for excess fertilizer. He then allows his cattle to rotationally graze on different farming plots to spread "their fertilizer" naturally, he said. Adding that the peas they just harvested, many of which still littered the ground, have plenty of nitrogen in them to keep the soil viable without additional cost.
Gilbertson also installed a series of tire tanks with underground water pipes for his cattle and included a custom modification in one tank that insulated it from the freezing winter temperatures.
"This has got deep buried pipe to that well," he said. "Underneath here, there is a 24-inch culvert buried 12 feet into the ground to let the natural air from the ground come up and then the tank is completely insulated. There is no electricity to it. And in the winter, we just cover (the openings) up, and it's a frost-free winter all winter long just from the natural heat of the ground and the natural heat of the water."
In addition to farming, the Gilbertsons are regulars at Trinity Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes where Samie Gilbertson, Brent's wife, teaches Sunday school. She also recently received her doctorate from the University of North Dakota in nursing anesthesia.
Brent and Samie have two children, daughter Brinlee, age 9, and son Tate, age 6.
The Gilbertson farm will represent Becker County at the statewide convention of conservation districts in December where they will compete for Minnesota Conservationist of the Year.