Steve Thomforde has been involved in ecological restoration for the past 25 years. During this time he has designed and implemented over 8,000 acres of grassland, savanna, and wetland restorations. Ten years ago, he became convinced that restoration of grasslands requires herbivores, and has worked hard, most often against the grain, to bring grazing to the forefront of land management. Over the past year, Thomforde has designed three grants for haying restored prairie and four grants for grazing, specifically several projects in Washington County, for up 1,200 acres in Lake Elmo Park Reserve. The way he sees it, “We could be increasing the ecological integrity of our land, provisioning high quality local foods and fibers, and creating good jobs. In a sense, we are resorting not only plant communities, but also the human community”.
Jake Langeslag is the owner of Goat Dispatch, a Minnesota based company that specializes in renting goat herds to manage vegetation in parks, cities, and private residences. As a trained ecologist, Jake has been recording goat grazing data on his farm and surrounding properties for many years. He strongly believes that goats will dramatically change the way in which we view and manage vegetation.
Kyle Johnson owns and operates Diversity Landworks LLC, based in the Driftless Region of southeastern Minnesota. Prescribed “browsing” of goats is one of their tools used to aid in prairie and savannah restoration. Kyle has been engaged in prairie seed and restoration since his youth and grows commercial scale organic apples in Houston County MN. Diversity Landworks believes that positive human interaction is an essential component of ecological revitalization in a landscape that has been abused and neglected.
Karl Hakanson is the Agricultural Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota Extension for Hennepin County. He has spent more than 25 years working on agricultural education and program initiatives at the grassroots level. He has led successful partnerships that included very large and very small farms; nonprofit organizations and public sector agencies; and with people who have a strong affinity for the natural environment and with those whose primary motivation was to maximize profit. The net result of those partnerships was better public policy, a stronger sense of community, and a greater utilization of sustainable farming practices.
Hennepin County hosts a diverse range of established and emerging agricultural production systems. The growing interest in local foods, such as direct sales to retail markets, institutions and consumers, and the pressing need to alleviate food insecurity are also important aspects of agricultural work in the county. Innovative soil, water and energy conservation are other key facets of Karl’s work.
He has worked in various capacities with the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, MN Department of Agriculture, River Country and Golden Sands RC&Ds, and the Cannon River Watershed Partnership in Northfield. He holds a B.S. in Agriculture from the UW-River Falls and a M.S. in Land Resources from the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, UW-Madison.