More than 10,000 Minnesotans recently voted for their favorite idea for addressing the state's water issues-and the winning concept will help Minnesota farmers practice proven conservation techniques.
The Minnesota Idea Open-which poses "challenges" and asks Minnesotans to submit solutions to important problems-grants the winning idea a $15,000 prize to help bring that solution to fruition.
Its most recent challenge asked Minnesotans how they would use $15,000 to help their community become aware of and address water issues in Minnesota. The competition began accepting ideas in June, the pool of submissions was narrowed to three finalists last month, and voting took place between August 23 and September 5.
The winning concept-dubbed "Minnesota FarmWise"-was submitted by Peggy Knapp of the Anoka-based nonprofit Freshwater Society and Lark Weller of the Mississippi National River Recreation Area. Minnesota FarmWise forms a public-private partnership between the Mississippi National River Recreation Area, a division of the National Park Service, and the Freshwater Society.
The winners intend to use the prize money to identify and recruit experienced and retired farmers who have demonstrated successful conservation techniques to lead and teach other farmers how to implement environmentally friendly practices.
"There are many effective conservation farming practices out there that protect rivers and lakes. Lots of farmers are using them. More should," Knapp said in a statement. "With the FarmWise program, farmers will get good information about what will work for them on their farms, protect and preserve their soil, while protecting Minnesota's lakes and rivers."
According to the Minnesota Idea Open, Minnesota FarmWise "recognizes that the best messengers for sharing these practices are farmers, as conversations between environmentalists and farmers have a history of getting heated."
Minneapolis-based Pentair, Inc., sponsored the challenge. Susan Carter, manager of the Pentair Foundation, told Twin Cities Business last month that Pentair's corporate foundation funded the prize money, a booth at the Minnesota State Fair, and other promotional components.
According to Carter, the sponsorship provided exposure for the Pentair brand, and "we always want to align ourselves with good people and credible ideas" and enter a dialogue about how to address the state's water issues. "The only way to do that is to engage people."
One of the other finalists, Loren Niemi from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis, had pitched a plan for using theater to provide environmental education. The third finalist was Todd Foster of Friends of the Sauk River, a nonprofit organization in St. Cloud. His organization submitted a proposal to use the prize money to develop a "library" system to allow Minnesotans to borrow canoes and kayaks to use on the state's lakes and rivers.
Carleen Rhodes, president and CEO of the Minnesota Community Foundation, said in a statement that the competition received many quality ideas in addition to Minnesota FarmWise, which the program's organizers hope will also be implemented to address the state's water issues.
The Idea Open was launched last year by the Minnesota Community Foundation and is funded by the Knight Foundation.