This story was collected as part of a collaborative effort to record the state of American lakes, rivers, and waterways as well an attempt to uncover what water means to Americans. Listen to other stories recorded by the Minnesota Humanities Center for their We Are Water MN initiative, an outgrowth of our national traveling exhibition "Water/Ways."
“Hi. I'm Mike Dretch from Frazee, Minnesota. My wife and I purchased this farm in the early 1990s from my father, whose father also owned the farm. We started out raising beef cattle and once we got established and were able to get up on our feet and get on our own, we got rid of the beef cattle and started putting the land back to its natural state.
We started planting trees and putting in some lime and CRP, and continue to this day to plant 3,000 to 4,000 trees probably every year or every other year just to bring the natural resources back, because with the encroachment of everything, if you don't help wildlife they can't help themselves, and that's ... Wildlife and water and natural resources are very important to our lifestyle, and hopefully our children and our grandchildren's lifestyle, so it's very important to us to keep a good ecosystem going.
On our property here we have two bodies of water, one on each side of our property here. One is a small lake and it's a natural lake, so there's no recreational traffic on it. We put up wood duck houses just to get to enjoy the wildlife here. Then on the back side of our property there is a wetland restoration, where they flooded 400 acres between us five landowners and they brought the water up to a certain elevation and got more surface water out there, and it's just amazing the amount of wildlife that has been attracted to this area.
It was a cooperative effort with the USDA and Natural Resources and the Soil and Water Conservation District, mostly for waterfowl, but whenever you bring water in all the other animals come, sand hill cranes, different terns, bitterns. It's just been a wonderful place, especially with the swans that have come in and established their homes there. It's just abundant wildlife. It's just great to see it come back.
One of my philosophies has always been when you have good water you have good life. You can look around you and where there's good water, good quality water, the way of life is great. And you can see around you where there's water that hasn't been treated or water that's not taken care of, your life parallels that same…”
Asset ID #3902