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White House honors Minnesota farmer as sustainable 'champion'

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Loretta Jaus takes the netting off a bail of hay.
Loretta Jaus takes the netting off a bail of hay as her husband Marty lowered the bail into a pen for their dairy cattle.
Jackson Forderer | For MPR News file

Minnesota farmer Loretta Jaus was lauded Monday by the White House as one of 12 national "champions of change for sustainable and climate-smart agriculture."

  Jaus and her husband Martin farm 410 acres in Sibley County and were organic before organic was cool. They got their first U.S. Department of Agriculture certification for some land in 1990; approval for the rest of the land and the dairy herd soon followed. Consumers caught up a decade later as U.S. organic food sales more than doubled over 10 years.

  The Jaus farm these days is a destination for people who want to learn more about organic farming techniques that create healthy soil to nourish crops and ward off pests without synthetic chemicals. Scientists visit to study the soil. Birdwatchers have counted more than 50 species on the farm. Butterfly weed and milkweed attract clouds of monarchs.

  Loretta Jaus and the 11 other sustainable agriculture champions were "honored for exemplary leadership and innovation in agricultural production and education" and implementing "agricultural practices that promote soil health and energy efficiency, improve water quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," the White House said in a statement.

    MPR News reporter Dan Olson contributed to this report.