Finalists for Missouri Leopold Conservation Award Selected

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2019 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award®. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land.

“Bringing the Leopold Conservation Award into Missouri is an outstanding way to recognize those farmers who are leaders among their peers in innovation and in demonstrating their commitment to their land,” said Robert Alpers, a mid-Missouri farmer and chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. “We all rely on the land and water, and the relationship with those resources is central for farmers.”

In Missouri the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Missouri Farmers Care (MFC), the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“Leopold Conservation Award recipients are at the forefront of a movement by America’s farmers and ranchers to simultaneously achieve economic and environmental success,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. 

Earlier this year, Missouri landowners were encouraged to apply, or be nominated, for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. The 2019 finalists are:

Brinker Farms, Inc. of Auxvasse in Callaway County: Brinker Farms received the 2006 National Pork Industry Environmental Steward Award. Today, Brinker is an owner of Harrison Creek Farm. The hog farm is home to 2,800 sows, utilizes no-till practices, and Brinker plants cereal rye as a cover crop for soil health and water infiltration. Six acres of corn, soybeans, milo and sunflowers are planted as food plots for wildlife. Undesirable trees were cleared from 200 acres of the farm to allow valuable tree species to flourish.

Oetting Homestead Farms of Concordia in Lafayette County: Steve, Sharon and Sean Oetting manage a hog finishing business and grow corn and soybeans at a farm that has been in their family for 180 years. They have been recognized by state and federal stewardship programs for responsibly preventing soil erosion and properly storing and utilizing their animal waste. Precision agricultural technology ensures fields are fertilized according to crop needs. They have planted pollinator habitat and nearly 10,000 trees within riparian buffer strips.

Joshlin and Addie Yoder of Leonard in Shelby County: The Yoders use minimum tillage or no-till practices on their corn and soybeans fields to control soil erosion and reduce compaction. Cover crops are utilized to control weeds and improve soil health and water quality. The impact of cover crops is measured by automated water monitoring stations that collect rain runoff from fields with and without cover crops. This water quality data also helps inform when to conduct field work and nutrient applications in relation to rain events. The Yoders also grow hay and raise beef cattle.

“These three family farms showcase some of the best in Missouri agriculture and conservation,” said Missouri Farmers Care Chairman Gary Marshall. “To be a finalist for this prestigious award requires a focus and discipline in managing the land and water to leave it in a better position for the next generation. We are excited to a part of this unique partnership to highlight some of Missouri’s finest stewards and look forward to announcing this year’s recipient in February.”

The inaugural recipient of the Missouri Leopold Conservation Award® in 2017 was Uptown Farms in Laclede. Last year’s recipient was Scherder Farms in Frankford. This year’s recipient will be announced in February 2020 at the Missouri Natural Resources Conference.

“Each of the finalists has demonstrated a commitment to improving soil health, increasing awareness of water quality, and helping wildlife resources on their land”, said J.R. Flores, NRCS State Conservationist. “Farmers voluntarily participating in conservation programs provides untold benefits to all Missourians.”

In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.” Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 20 states with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations. For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.