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Bernie Rosckes - New Prague, MN

posted Jan 8, 2009, 10:59 PM by Philip Potyondy   [ updated Jun 21, 2010, 11:12 PM ]

Ducks on the Pond

In the gentle hills of southern Minnesota near New Prague lies some very fine farmland. More than 30 years ago Bernie Rosckes bought 140 acres of the deep, dark loam then
The Rosckes have planted oaks on the outer margins of their sugar maple/basswood climax forest.
covered in corn and soybeans. Today, however,  you’d be hard-pressed to find any conventional agricultural crops growing on his land. Instead, Rosckes has replaced the corn with native habitats including ponds, forests, and prairie.

Decades ago Rosckes’ land was drained to support crops and then seeded to cool-season grass under CRP. Now wetlands have been re-established, complete with smartweed, sedges, and sora.
On a warm day last July the Rosckes land is abuzz with activity. Junior Reinhart, self-proclaimed “Wetland Guy and a Duck’s Best Friend” is moving an excavator with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel, scraping and smoothing until the dirt is leveled just right. Tom Coffman, USDA NRCS, is inspecting the wetland work on  Rockes’ land. Rosckes himself is asking a lot of questions. All are working toward the common goal of turning this low spot back into a wetland.

Rosckes also has restored some of his rolling fields to native prairie, with big bluestem and wildflowers coming on strong after a spring burn. Eventually he’ll extend the prairie until he “runs out of room.”
As we bump along across the land in a modified golf cart, Rosckes points out the plants growing in another wetland, now drained for maintenance. Coffman is delighted to see smartweed—manna from heaven for ducks. The pool has been drawn down to expose the soil to air and sunlight and encourage the growth of the plant.

Coffman helps Rosckes manage the levels of multiple wetlands on his property to attract waterfowl. Rosckes says he does it all so that his grandchildren can watch the waterfowl and their dabbling and diving ways, but it’s clear he likes what he sees, too.

Overhead, a flock of American pelicans circle and soar, looking for big water. While Rosckes’ ponds may be small potatoes to these large birds, the wetlands are critical resting, nesting, and feeding spots for other species.

Instead of corn and soybeans, Rosckes today grow a food web.