The regional winners of the 2020 Conservation Legacy Award have been announced. The winners:
- Susan and Mike Brocksmith, Vincennes, Ind. (Northeast Region)
- Frank Howey, Monroe, N.C. (South Region)
- Nancy Kavazanjian, Beaver Dam, Wis. (Upper Midwest Region)
- Nicole and Randy Small, Neodesha, Kan. (Midwest Region)
Each winner will be recognized at the ASA Awards Banquet on Feb. 28 at Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas. During the banquet, one of the farmers will be chosen as the national winner.
The Conservation Legacy Award is a national program designed to recognize the outstanding environmental and conservation achievement of soybean farmers.
A national selection committee, composed of soybean farmers, conservationists, agronomists and natural resource professionals, evaluated nominations based on each farmer’s environmental and economic program.
Northeast region winner
Susan and Mike Brocksmith of Vincennes, Ind., just want to be better. Better stewards. Better farmers. Better food suppliers. Their quest for being better has everything to do with tomorrow and what they can do on their farm to be more effective and efficient for future generations.
When Mike returned home from Purdue University in 1979, the family farm only had about 100 tillable acres. Since it was easier to grow the livestock portion than acquire more land, that’s what they did until more acres were acquired and they eased out of livestock.
Today, the Brocksmith’s raise soybeans that are 100% no-till and non-GMO corn, which is contracted to an end-user. Located in southwest Indiana, the farm is home to highly erodible soil, so in 1990, they began dabbling in cover crops and now, cover crops are on all their acres. Waterways, rock chutes, drop boxes, gradient terraces and more than 150 water and sediment control basins have also been added.
South region winner
Frank Howey is a pioneer. Farming in an area where dry weather is most often a limiting factor, the Monroe, N.C., farmer planted narrow-row corn. Growing both corn and soybeans in 15-inch rows, Howey counts on a quick canopy to both preserve spring moisture and control weeds.
A seventh-generation farmer, he and his wife, Allison, have created a diverse enterprise that includes corn, wheat, soybeans, timber and beef cattle. Howey has been no-till farming since 1984.
Being part of eco-friendly projects is also important to the Howeys. With several solar projects on their land, they focus on clean energy and believe that in a small way, they are helping their community, and the country, to become energy independent.
Farming in one of the fastest growing areas of the country, they are surrounded by housing developments. The Howeys create wildlife habitat by leaving strips of land to let trees grow. In addition, each year the Howeys plant about 150,000 trees on land not suitable for growing other crops.
“We strive to be good stewards of the land for not only our own two young aspiring farmers — Trey, 17, and Ellie, 10 — but for generations to come,” Frank Howey says.
Upper Midwest winner
Nancy Kavazanjian grew up on a little postage-stamp side yard on Long Island, N.Y., with a few tomato plants. But that wasn’t enough for Kavazanjian. She wanted more.
“Why don’t we go live on a farm?” she remembers asking her parents.
Fast-forward more than 40 years, and today, she has her farm in Beaver Dam, Wis. and is married to a fourth-generation farmer, Charles Hammer. Kavazanjian and Hammer are firmly rooted in the motto, “Our soil, our strength.”
The row crop operation grows corn, soybeans and wheat, and for the past 40 years has worked to implement innovative technologies and farming methods that protect their farmland.
They were among the first in their area to adopt no-till, strip-tillage practice and cover crops. Kavazanjian also established a pollinator habitat on the gravel-covered knolls to provide an atmosphere that supports native bees, butterflies, birds and wildlife.
Kavazanjian and Hammer are working with a university to pilot and proof a phosphorus-reduction system that could potentially have major benefits for lakes, farms and watersheds across the nation.
“We’re all part of the problem, and we all need to be part of the solution,” Kavazanjian says.
Midwest region winner
Randy and Nicole Small are sixth-generation farmers and raise soybeans, corn, wheat, clover and run a 400-head cow-calf operation near Neodesha, Kan. Exclusively continuous no-till since 1999, the Smalls save on both fuel and labor through reduced tillage.
Cover crops also play a huge role in helping the Smalls protect the soil. Integrating the use of soybeans in a double-crop system behind wheat has helped the Smalls increase yield to levels they never thought were achievable. For 13 years, the Smalls have used relay cropping by planting soybeans into growing wheat.
Nicole shares many of their farm experiences through her blog, Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom. She also uses social media and writes a weekly newspaper column that has opened doors for her to speak to a variety of audiences
To educate students on where their food really comes from, Nicole’s paper doll project, Flat Aggie, has reached more than 2,000 students in over 5 years.
“Right now, economics are pretty important,” Randy says. “With a no-till system we’re saving soil, we’re rejuvenating soil, we’re building organic matter. In the end, that’s going to make a big difference in how productive our sons can be and how sustainable their operation can be.”