Meet Climate Land Leaders

Carol Bouska, Peg Bouska, Sally McCoy, Ann Novak (MN, IA, WI and WA)

The Bouska sisters’ land has been in the family since 1903. Most of the farm is in conventional row crop production, but the Bouskas’ vision is to convert the land to a regenerative agriculture model in 10 years. Their farming partner has planted cover crops, and the sisters have installed pollinator fields, grassed waterways, maintained a woodlot and planted extensive trees, restored a wetland and added prairie strips around the perimeter of their farm, among other actions. The sisters have worked hard on their legacy goals “to find our common themes and speak as one voice to the next generation.”

Becky Lourey (MN)

When Becky and her late husband, Gene, bought property in Pine County in 1974, they shared a many-generations vision for the land which they immediately began to implement and steadfastly pursued over decades of partnership  – from creating and maintaining large tracts of forestlands intermixed with agricultural lands, to founding a sawmill and kiln dryer business that also served as a demonstration of low-impact logging practices and promoted local owned and sustainably grown wood products, to an overarching ethos and practice of sustainable forest and agricultural land management. Over the years, they purchased adjoining land as it became available. Today the land is 1,800+ acres and includes several fields sustainably maintained for grass fed beef but is majority forest – including the 50,000 trees Gene planted in 1975 and 1976 – with 12 miles of trails and a tree farm that won Outstanding Tree Farm of the Year in 2020. In Gene’s words, “We will pay attention to the environment in which we live always striving to reduce our environmental footprint and to invest in projects that support sustainable and renewable activity in both food and energy.”

Joe and Sylvia Luetmer (MN)

Joe and Sylvia Luetmer own four farms and have sold a fifth to help beginning farmers get started. They have undertaken extensive restoration work of prairies, woodlands and grasslands. “Our vision is to protect existing natural areas, re-establish native prairies and wetlands, build soil biology on retained croplands, and transition land to young farm families. Our goal is to prevent farmland from being developed into low-density suburban sprawl and small farms from being consolidated into ‘corporate’ farms with the home sites being sold off separately.”

Maggie McQuown and Steve Turman (IA)

Maggie and Steve’s farm has been in Maggie’s family for more than 120 years. They have no-till corn and soybeans with cover crops and have won awards for their conservation practices, which include: Woods, riparian wooded/prairie buffer, prairie strips and pollinator plots, contour strips, grass waterways and grasslands. They also grow vegetables for the Red Oak Farmers Market. “We want to move from two-crop production to regenerative farm practices and a low/zero energy footprint. We are most interested in raising nutrient-dense, local/regional food.”

Photo by Ruth Rabinowitz

Meg and Glenn Nielsen (WI)

Meg and Glenn inherited land that has been in Meg’s family since 1903. They are working with their tenant to plant cover crops, and they are moving conventional corn and soybean acres to grass for grazing and planting nut trees, berry bushes and more. “We would like to make our land an oasis in the monoculture desert for wildlife, birds, insects and bees. We hope to make enough money to pay the taxes and our long-term care insurance and make some continued changes towards sequestering carbon in the ground.”

Brett Ramey (Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska)

Brett Ramey is a land-based educator and program designer working at intersections of environmental, cultural, and community health. Brett moved to Dakota homelands in Minneapolis in January 2020 and is a Climate Resilience Planner for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. He also advises on food and land-focused grantmaking programs, and in 2021 convened ‘Restorying Regenerative Agriculture’, a participatory funding process through the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation that supports Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led food and farming initiatives. Through the Ioway Climate Resilience Program, Brett leads an internship program for young tribal members that draws climate connections across multiple tribal departments. He is coordinating efforts to establish baseline surveys of trees, birds, soils, insects, and plants in the recently established Ioway Tribal National Park and is co-designing a land stewardship and agroforestry plan with an emphasis on oak savanna, prairie restoration, and food sovereignty for the Tribe.

Beth Singleton and Rupert Cooper (MN)

When Beth and Rupert purchased their farm in 2020, much of the land was in conventional corn and soybean rotation. They have planted the crop ground to alfalfa and clover and are caring for new tree plantings, a wetland and woodlands. “Our goals are to repair the depleted soil, minimize erosion, eliminate chemical fertilizer and pesticide, and sequester carbon while producing food for ourselves and others. To us, that means establishing an economically viable prairie and oak savannah through planting fruit, oak, hazelnut and maple trees, berry shrubs, berry patches, native forbs, and grasses.”