Spotlight: Misty Lemke-Long Prairie, Minn

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Hardwood Hills

Working Woodlands

On this particular afternoon in 2014, Misty Lemke, her husband Robby (aka Cubby), and their two young children had officially resided on their land for mere hours. Today was moving day. Someday her family's temporary residence in their spacious, newly built shed will be a funny memory once their house is fully constructed.

Misty Lemke stand in her field

Though recent permanent residents, Misty and Cubby have worked diligently on their 55 acres near Long Prairie since the moment they purchased it in 2009. Right away, they acquired a Woodland Stewardship Plan through the DNR so they could enroll in the 2c Managed Forest Land tax relief program.

As new hobby farmers interested in environmental preservation, in 2010 they planted 20,000 trees in the agricultural fields using their tractor, a friend's borrowed planter, funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service's (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and their bare hands. "I didn't wear gloves," Misty says ruefully. "When planting all those trees, your skin literally peels off. We both got poison ivy." Despite this hard lesson, the Lemke family thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were thrilled with the results. "It was a fun learning adventure for all of us. We were mindful of what the kids were learning and continually thinking about our family's footprint on our property." She also sees how their work makes a difference for their landscape. "The more trees that we can grow in this area, the more the water will be helped. That's quite beneficial in the Long Prairie watershed."

Since their big tree planting, the Lemkes have spent time protecting the young trees from wildlife and mowing encroaching grasses. They also began to manage their existing woods, cutting dead and over-mature trees to make way for new growth, and removing invasive European buckthorn.

"By planting early in our lives, in our later years we'll be able to enjoy our woods."

With full-time jobs and volunteer work, it's sometimes tricky to find time. "It's weekends, nights, and spare time" Misty says. "We do it when we can. It's tough juggling our responsibilities, but every little improvement helps." Despite the challenges, Misty is glad that they started owning and managing their woodlands early. "There are cost-share programs through the NRCS and other improvement assistance programs to explore." She thinks about sitting on the porch viewing the woods of the future, and smiles. "By planting early in our lives, in our later years we'll be able to enjoy our woods."

Despite busy schedules, what is their secret to success? "We have our DNR forester, Jason Kern, on speed dial," she says. "He has been fantastic and helped us so much. If we have questions he's just a phone call away." The Lemkes know their projects will take time. "We're fully committed to a lifetime of work on our dream property, but the results will be OUR results."

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