Forestry field day brings farmers and bluebird enthusiasts together

PHOTO COURTESY OF FILLMORE COUNTY SWCD Bill Bailey explains good forestry practices to attendees at a previous Forestry Field Day held at the Bailey Brothers’ Farm.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Bluebirders and farmers of a feather hike the forest and create a legacy together.

“The eighth annual Fillmore County Forestry Field Day will be held at the conservation award-winning Bailey Brothers Farm in Chatfield, and this year’s theme is ‘Create Your Forest, Create Your Legacy,’ which will be illustrated by examples of conservation-minded practices and will feature parts of the Lost Creek Hiking Trail, which has its own bluebird trail established and monitored from the trail’s inception in 2011 by hiking trail member and longtime bluebirder, Tim Gossman of Chatfield,” shared Chatfield resident and devoted bluebird enthusiast Mary Bailey.

Bailey shared the plans for the Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) forestry field day set for Wednesday, July 24. It is an outing of bluebirders like herself and Gossman, as well as farmers and conservationists like her husband, Bill, and his brother, Steve, who own a farm just west of Chatfield.

Mary and Bill own an acreage north of Chatfield on which Mary maintains a bluebird trail and which is the place where she converted Bill, a lifelong farmer, into a bluebirder – someone who monitors nesting habits and collects data on Eastern bluebirds each year.

Bill and Steve are established forestry conservationists on their farmland, doing what they can to promote wise use of planting and logging to keep the woods healthy.

The brothers were chosen as recipients of the 2018 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) J.C. “Buzz” Ryan Award for exemplary leadership in conservation of natural resources. The award was given by the Minnesota DNR Forestry Employees’ Association last fall, but the pair actually received the award this past spring due to scheduling delays.

Mary traveled down a hallway in her home, listing the awards hanging there that Bill and Steve received over the years, noting they include the 2010 Outstanding Conservationists of the Year – given by the Fillmore County SWCD to Bill and Steve for accomplishments in conservation of soil, water and natural resources. They also earned the 2011 Fillmore SWCD conservation award, and were named the 2015 Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year for work done on their land.

She pointed out that the field day is for everyone who’d like to take a walk in the woods – not just bluebirders interested in catching a streak of indigo on the wing. The brothers have hosted Fillmore County’s SWCD forestry field day in previous years and will outline what efforts have been made to encourage growth of specific tree species and how careful logging has been used in those efforts.

SWCD representative Aaren Mathison shared the evening’s activities. “This year, we will be hiking a short trail through several different examples of forest management practices and their long-term effects,” he said. “Through observing these different examples, attendees will be able to develop ideas for their own properties and decide what legacy they want to leave on the land. A few different speakers are lined up to present, and also, time is available for people to ask questions, network and learn more about forest management. The general public is welcome to attend and can learn about many ways landowners are conserving the natural resources and leaving the land better for future generations.”

Mathison cited, “We will learn more about how different areas of the region have more forested areas, how livestock are a positive addition to our landscape, and how actions taken decades ago have an influence on our current land use.”

He shared that he has been part of other Fillmore County field days and he’s gleaned useful information from the events’ speakers and guides.

“I have not been on other field days except our own, but a few other SWCDs in other counties do similar field days. Every single field day, I learn more about the conservation practices that landowners use and enjoy visiting with conservation professionals. I also enjoy gaining a greater awareness of the environment around us,” Mathison added.

Mary Bailey contributed, “This is the third time the event will be hosted on the Bailey farm, and previous attendees will note the changes brought about by good forestry practices. Different management practices have different effects on long-term forest health. It’s a chance to learn how logging, grazing and natural succession affect forest health over the long term, and Forest Stewardship Plans, funding options and easement opportunities will also be presented. A detailed slide show will be running and interpreted by Bill and myself at the site, and a light supper will be provided just before the short, interpreted hike which will illustrate this year’s theme.”

Mathison issued an invitation to anyone who’d like to go into the woods to see how forests are managed. “Everyone is welcome to attend, even if you don’t own any land. People can also learn more about the Lost Creek Hiking Trail that is open for the public to get out and enjoy nature. I believe that it is always a good practice to learn more about the natural world we live in, and what we do now can have an influence on future generations.”

 He added that participants should plan for the weather and wear sturdy shoes. “The field day will happen rain or shine, but if it is raining heavily, we may be meeting in a hay shed located near the field site. The safety of our attendees would take precedence if severe weather was imminent, and there’s no rain date scheduled yet. It is recommended that people should be prepared for hiking in the woods. In previous walks on the property, the mosquitoes and gnats haven’t been bad, but it is always good practice to be prepared for all insects – and also look for ticks afterwards.”

 Mathison concluded, “Everyone is welcome to attend, and the location for this year’s field day is ideal to find out how different management techniques can have different long-term effects, as well as options to protect your forest and preserve your legacy.”

 The 2019 Fillmore County SWCD forestry field day is slated for Wednesday, July 24, at Bailey Brothers Farm outside of Chatfield, with a light supper at 5:30 p.m. and tours happening from 6 p.m. to sunset.

The tour is sponsored by the SWCD, High Point Realty, American Tree Farm System, the Minnesota Forestry Association and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

To get to the Baileys’ land from Chatfield, go west at the intersection of Highway 52 and County Road 2, go four miles west on County 2, turn left onto the Baileys’ land. If coming from the west on County 2, travel half a mile past Ninebark Road, turn right onto the Baileys’ property. Signs will be posted.

For more information, contact Jess Stevens at the Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District at 507-765-3878, ext. 3, or email