An Environmental Initiative Program

Central Minnesota Pilot Project

Currently, Field Stewards is finishing up a 3-year pilot project working with farmers in Stearns County, Minnesota. This pilot was funded by the GNP Company (now Pilgrims Pride) on behalf of the Just BARE™ brand of premium chicken.


Field Stewards is a meaningful farmer-company partnership to improve Minnesota’s water quality and support a more sustainable supply chain. Here’s how Field Stewards works:

  1. Field Stewards works with food companies to identify priority sourcing areas and areas of interest
  2. Farmers who meet and maintain the rigorous standards of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program are certified as Field Stewards farmers
  3. Food companies provide a small financial incentive to these farmers for water quality protection on their farms, furthering sustainability goals in a given geography without needing to segregate and track commodity crop inputs
  4. As a third party, Field Stewards distributes these funds to participating farmers based on acreage
  5. Through company support, farmers receive income, positive recognition and encouragement to continue stewardship efforts


Please contact Greg Bohrer, Associate Director, Agriculture and Environment at Environmental Initiative, at 612-334-3388 ext. 8112.

Though we are wrapping up our corn and soybeans pilot in central Minnesota with JustBare™, Field Stewards can work with any type of crop production. Our certification standard is flexible – allowing farmers to tailor water quality protection to the crops they grow and the way they farm. We are currently seeking new partnerships with farmers, local conservation organizations, and food companies. Please contact us if you would like to explore this opportunity.



The Field Stewards project paid the first two water quality certified farmers in Stearns County for their stewardship efforts, testing out a simplified version of the enrollment and reporting process.


Field Stewards grew significantly, with more farmers in the county reaching and maintain water quality protection on their farms. The program deployed a more comprehensive enrollment strategy that verified reported acres and practices.


More certified farmers in Stearns County joined the pilot project and received payments based on the number of soybean and corn acres they planted that year. The Field Stewards enrollment and verification piece became fully developed, with multiple-year contracts and enrollment processes that can be adapted to any crop in any geography.


Currently enrolled farmers in Stearns County will receive payments based on their corn and soybean acres, fulfilling their second year of the multiple year contract and the end of the pilot program with GNP Company/Pilgrims Pride.

Other results include:


Field Stewards is administered by Environmental Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building partnerships to develop solutions to Minnesota’s environmental problems.

This innovative and entrepreneurial approach to supply chain sustainability was created and vetted by national and Minnesotan water quality leaders. We benefit from their expertise and partnership:

Conservation Marketplace Midwest

Conservation Marketplace Midwest, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was created in 2008 by conservation professionals as an innovative approach to help meet water quality goals in watersheds across southern and central Minnesota. The straightforward process advances conservation adoption to help restore ecological function of our environment.

McKnight Foundation

The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. The McKnight Foundation use all our resources to attend, unite, and empower those they serve. The foundation is a primary funder of the Field Stewards work.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, is a voluntary program for Minnesota farmers to assess and treat their whole farm for risks posed to water quality. Participating farmers receive 10-year regulatory certainty that they will be in compliance with any new water quality laws or rules. The program supports Field Stewards with coordinated site assessment tools and processes and the bonus of regulatory certainty for farmers enrolled in both programs.

TBL Consultants, LLC

TBL Consultants, LLC (TBL) is an environmental engineering firm with a focus on watershed management, flexible compliance options, and conservation market-based solutions.  James Klang, P.E., of TBL (previously of Kieser & Associates, LLC) furnishes the development team options for a program framework that provides for a defensible environmental claim.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps people help the land through voluntary, incentive- and science-based approaches. NRCS is supporting the Field Stewards project through its Conservation Innovation Grants program, which funds innovative natural resource conservation approaches and technologies on private lands.

This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 69-3A75-16-011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District

The Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District is a local unit of government that provide leadership in the conservation of soil, water, and related natural resources through programs and partnerships with individuals, businesses, organizations, and government. A Field Stewards partner since the beginning of the program, the Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District is the field representative and on-farm conservation expert for the partnership.