Season after season, Minnesota’s farmers demonstrate grit, ingenuity and perseverance while conserving and managing their resources.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff also seek to embody these same qualities as we manage the state’s natural resources alongside our farm communities and all Minnesotans.

Whether managing agricultural resources or natural resources, these jobs are both challenging and rewarding, as we blend tried and true experience with new technologies to adapt to changing conditions.

At the DNR, our mission is to work with Minnesotans to conserve natural resources, provide recreation opportunities and provide for commercial uses of natural resources that create a sustainable quality of life. We strive to ensure all of these elements work together to achieve the best natural resource outcomes for our state.

As someone who has worked in the non-profit sector, as a local elected official and for state government, I know succeeding in our mission requires us to work collaboratively with other state and local entities as well as forge public-private partnerships. I also believe strongly in engaging people in the decisions that affect them. For the DNR’s work, this absolutely includes farmers.

Over the years, the DNR has built relationships with individual farmers, farm organizations and farm-based communities, and these relationships have led to a number of successful partnerships. We’ve collaborated with private landowners to offer walk-in access to hunters. We’ve partnered with farm organizations to advocate enhancement of farm bill conservation programs and we’ve worked with producers to manage state wildlife areas through grazing.

In the next few years, rural Minnesota will face a number of challenging issues that impact both agriculture and natural resource interests.

These issues include:

• An increasing number of intense storm events that create water storage and drainage issues impacting our natural lands, farms and communities

• A declining pollinator population

• A disease that threatens Minnesota’s deer herd

• The need to ensure water is available in sufficient quality and quantity to support important economic, social and natural resource uses

• Management of a sustainable wolf population without adverse impact on producers.

In each of these cases, and many others, there are no easy solutions. We can solve difficult problems like these if we continue to build on our foundation of partnership and mutual interests and work together to identify solutions. 

It is essential for the DNR to listen and learn from the concerns of our farmers. Likewise, it’s important for our farmers to understand the responsibilities of the DNR. Brick by brick, a foundation of meaningful engagement can be improved upon by farmers and conservationists. For DNR’s part, we are committed to talking with producers as we make visits to rural communities and farms.

Although the conversations may be difficult at times, that foundation will help DNR staff and the agriculture community build collaborative relationships, and, through respectful dialogue, we will find solutions that will lead to more prosperous rural communities, enhanced connections to the outdoors and a healthy natural resource base. We plan to continue the good work our regional staff already performs by touring farms throughout rural Minnesota and meeting producers that are impacted by these difficult issues.

I believe this hard work will bring results that all of us as Minnesotans not only embrace, but of which we can be proud.

– Sarah Strommen is the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.