Recognizing community members, businesses, and organizations that make a significant contribution to environmental quality in Olmsted County is at the core of what the Environmental Achievement Awards stand for.
The awards were developed in 1992 to recognize individuals and groups that are making Olmsted County a more sustainable community through innovative programs and practices that demonstrate environmental leadership. Categories available for nomination include climate change, conservation, education, energy, renewables, sustainable food production, water, and other.
To nominate an individual, family, youth, organization, farm, or business you can print off the standard nomination form or fill in the online nomination form and print off when completed.
Completed nominations for 2022-2023 are due by Friday, October 6, 2023 to Anthony Wittmer.
The 2020-2021 Environmental Award Recipients
Nominated by Jill Danielsen (Who excepted the award on his behalf.)
For over 10 years, Paul Thompson has faithfully contributed to environmental education and conservation projects at Quarry Hill Nature Center (QHNC). As a regular weekend docent, Paul shares his knowledge and passion for the environment with many annual visitors. With a smile and his special way of engaging visitors, he answers countless questions about the natural world while teaching and encouraging conservation practices. Paul also assists with Quarry Hill programs and events that support environmental education. This includes helping new skiers to be successful in their outdoor adventure, demonstrating invasive species removal, and facilitating learning experiences with QHNC’s dinosaur exhibits, to name a few!
Nominated by Angela Gupta
Weed Warrior volunteers are dedicated to removing invasive plant species from public lands and restoring native plant communities—vital to supporting a rich and diverse habitat for all living things. Weed Warrior volunteers have been instrumental in helping to manage garlic mustard, wild parsnip, and buckthorn at Quarry Hill Park. These volunteers have been key to several important early detections of new invasive species including poison hemlock, border privet, Japanese barberry, and Oriental bittersweet. Early detection and rapid response are the most effective ways to manage invasive species. Weed Warriors also take on the role of educating the public about the negative impact invasives have and what can be done about them. They are a shining example of what volunteers can do when they work together.
Nominated by David Razidlo and MaryJo Sibley
Joe Adamson has undertaken many conservation and education projects over the last few years during his effort to save the Mary Knoll Barns from neglect and decay. The most relevant project to date was the return of a large field to its natural flora. This allowed Joe to include onsite beekeeping and falls in line with his overarching goal of preserving this historic site.
Through his efforts, Joe has:
- Installed erosion control measures
- Converted land to pollinator-friendly habitat
- Installed apiaries
- Held education events
Jim and Kathy Schumann
Nominated by Joseph Marchesani
Rochester and its neighboring communities are surrounded by some of our nation's most productive farmland. That farmland sits atop one of our most important natural resources, clean water. For decades, Jim and Kathy Schumann have introduced conservation practices to protect this essential resource.
For more than 40 years, Jim and Kathy have farmed 300+ acres near Eyota; some of the land has been in the family since the 1850s. They grow corn, beans, hay, and peas, and have adopted best practices on their land. Their efforts include the installation of drainage tiles, establishment and maintenance of waterways, conservation tillage, the introduction of cover crops, and the development of healthy woodland.
CedarCrest Wildlife & Retreat Farm
Nominated by Ron and Dianne Yanish
CedarCrest Wildlife & Retreat Farm (CCWRF) is a family-owned 450-acre farm dedicated to providing food, cover, and habitat for local wildlife. CCWRF’s owners worked with the Farm Service Agency office to establish Conservation Reserve Program fields and wildflower plantings that provide for the needs of butterflies, birds, and bees. In 2016, a four-acre lake was added to the property and stocked with black crappies, hybrid sunnies, large & smallmouth bass, walleye, and pike.
The farm provides opportunities for local youth to experience what nature has to offer, including fishing opportunities and hunting privileges. In 2009, CCWRF was put into a conservation easement with the Minnesota Land Trust—which protects the land forever.
We Bike Rochester
Nominated by Matthew Spiten
From January 2019 through February 2020, We Bike Rochester (WBR) led the Cycling for Better Air Quality (C-BAQ) citizen science study. This project focused on mobile data collections to measure fine particulate air pollution in four sections of Rochester. The data collection routes covered most environmental justice census tracks as determined by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Four WBR cyclists performed data collections at each route every month (including winter months). The data suggests higher particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in specific areas of the city. This data will be very helpful for developing statistical models that will be able to identify fine particulate concentrations in real-time at many locations in Rochester/Olmsted County. This data can be used for environmental science studies examining the connection between environmental exposure and health outcomes.
Loretta Bast Mogan
Nominated by Patty Trnka
For the past five years, Loretta Bast Mogan has worked to remove invasive plants (garlic mustard, buckthorn, and honeysuckle) at Chester Woods Park. This past spring, the Friends of Chester Woods received a grant to improve the woods around a popular park attraction, the Dam Overlook area. This area was overtaken by buckthorn and honeysuckle which degraded the woods for pollinators. Loretta worked many hours to remove buckthorn in the area and then cut and treated resprouts. Along with other MN Master Naturalist Volunteers, she planted native wildflowers and transplanted sedges.
Additionally, Loretta upgraded wildflower identification signs by making 60 signs with the common and Latin names of the plant plus a QR code that links directly to the Minnesota Wildflower website. Loretta’s efforts have helped restore the woods to a more natural state. In turn, native wildflowers and grasses can establish themselves for the benefit of pollinators.
The Village Agricultural Cooperative
Nominated by Anna Oldenburg
The Village Agricultural Cooperative was founded in 2019 through the creative vision of Kim Sin. Kim envisioned a community garden space dedicated to the immigrant and refugee community where individuals and families could gather to grow food, continue their traditional growing practices, and build community. Through multiple community connections and a can-do spirit, The Village is now a flourishing community garden that hosts 160 families spread over five growing locations in Rochester for a total of six acres of communal growing land. The Village is managed by Amanda Nigon-Crowley and Kim Sin is the board president. Together, Amanda and Kim continue to advocate for the needs of the growers, seek additional land for individuals on the growing waitlist, and never stop dreaming of future possibilities for The Village.
Nominated by Lonnie Fynskov
To obtain the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, Jacob Arroyo worked with Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (GSLC) to convert a grass ditch beside the church’s driveway into a 60’ x 30’ rain garden of perennial flowers and grasses. This project required research, organization of scout troop and GSLC members, and a lot of hard work. Completed in August of 2020, the rain garden supports habitat for rusty patch bumble bee and monarch butterfly populations. The rain garden also reduces runoff from the church’s parking lot. Jacob has used the rain garden to co-lead educational sessions emphasizing the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship to fellow youth.
Quarry Hill Nature Center Staff
Nominated by Kari Takahashi
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-present), the Quarry Hill Nature Center’s (QHNC) educational staff delivered specialized, high-quality, virtual environmental programs to a diverse demographic of community members. Participants included thousands of Rochester Public School students in grades K-8, residents within local senior living communities, pediatric patients receiving care within Mayo Clinic’s Children’s Hospital, and the general public.
Over the past 18 months, 39 specialized “Week in the Wild” videos were produced and shared with thousands of learners on topics ranging from monarch butterflies, cave critters, apples to chipmunks, squirrels, and urban plants. Each video is a “natural jewel” and has brought a sparkle of joy to our community members during a time of restrictions and limited social opportunities.