Community rallies around family fighting to keep southern Minnesota farm

A family in Southern Minnesota is fighting to save their farm, after learning the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intends to take it for a dredging project.

The Corps would like to take 298 acres of the Drysdale’s farm in Wabasha, as they look for land to store the silt and sand they pull out of the Mississippi River every day.

“We’re putting it on islands, temporary locations, we have some permanent locations at the Wabasha gravel pit, but it’s filling up,” said Col. Sam Calkins with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Within the next two years, we’ll run out of places that we already own to put the sand.”

Calkins said the Drysdales land is the most environmentally sound and economical option.

“It’s not right to take up prime, irrigated, continuous flat farm ground when we are surrounded by wasteland, old rock quarries,” said Chelsey Drysdale. “There are several other places it could go.”

Chelsey Drysdale is the fourth generation to farm on her family’s land. She says the land isn’t just their livelihood, but their identity.

“No one came to our door, no one asked us any questions. We read it through a three ring binder,” said Drysdale referencing the nature in which her family was notified. Three weeks ago, they received the plans in a FedEx delivery.

Calkins said while they have been working on their 40-year-plan for three years, federal law restricted earlier notification.

“We won’t simply take the land, we will compensate them for it,” said Calkins. “I know that’s not a good answer for someone who planned to farm their land the next 40 years, but the sand has to go somewhere.”

The dredging is an ongoing project for the Corps, as they are required to keep a 9-foot navigation channel for commercial traffic.

Several other landowners are set to lose property as well, prompting hundreds to show up to a public meeting Thursday.

"We feel like we are no longer the land of the free. That the government can just come in, take what they feel is theirs and just leave,” said Chelsey.

The Drysdales have the support of State Representative Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) and three U.S. Senators. All have asked the Corps to find a new location.