Three Missouri farm families are finalists for the 2021 Leopold Conservation Award.
The award, given in honor of conservationist Aldo Leopold, recognizes farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat in their care.
“The finalists for this year’s Leopold Conservation Award are excellent examples of family farms exhibiting the highest level of conservation,” says Scott Edwards, NRCS state conservationist. “The commitment they have made to implement conservation and improve their operations is a true success story.”
In Missouri, the $10,000 award is presented annually by the Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. This year, the winning farm family will be named and honored during the 2021 Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture, Nov. 18-19 in Osage Beach, Mo.
“In agriculture, our greatest resource is the land, and as farmers, it is our duty to be good stewards of that land for future generations,” says Kyle Durham, chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. “Sustainability is one of the top priorities for the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, and it’s outstanding to see the spotlight on farm families who are truly living the example of stewardship.”
Earlier this year, Missouri landowners applied or were nominated for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.
The 2021 finalists are:
Britt Farms Inc. of Clifton Hill in Randolph County. Ryan Britt and family are corn, soybean and wheat growers who use cover crops and no-till practices to prevent erosion and improve soil health. Grid sampling and variable-rate fertilizer application technologies are used to protect soil nutrients and prevent the overuse of fertilizer. The family uses a covered feeding facility in the winter, and rotationally grazes beef cattle in the summer to preserve water and grass resources. Britt Farms has provided habitat for wildlife and insect pollinators on wetlands and along field buffers.
Cope Grass Farms of Truxton in Lincoln County. Harry and Rose Cope, along with the farm’s fifth-generation Dustin and Sabrina Cope, raise a variety of livestock — including grass-fed, grass-finished beef and lamb, acorn-fed pork, and pastured duck and turkey. Native pasture mixes, timber stand improvements, cover crops and prescribed burns improve soil health and provide wildlife habitat on the diversified, regenerative operation. Cope Grass Farms is one of seven farms in Missouri certified by the Audubon Conservation Ranching Program as producing grassland bird-friendly beef.
Oetting Homestead Farms of Concordia in Lafayette County. Steve and Sharon Oetting, along with their sons Sean and Clint, 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 using their animal waste. Precision agricultural technology ensures fields are fertilized according to crop needs. They have planted pollinator habitats and nearly 10,000 trees within riparian buffer strips and are always looking for more conservation opportunities.
“These Missouri family farms exhibit a deep understanding and commitment to future generations and sustainability,” Missouri Farmers Care chairman Jeff Houts says. “As so many things in agriculture are constantly changing, these finalists understand that focused strategies for enhancing the land and water are forever at the root of defining success.”
Here is a list of past winners of the Leopold Conservation Award:
2017. Uptown Farms, Laclede
2018. Scherder Farms, Frankford
2019. Brinker Farms Inc., Auxvasse
2020. Joshlin and Addie Yoder, Leonard
The Missouri Leopold Conservation Award Program is supported by American Farmland Trust, Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Sand County Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, MFA Inc., Missouri Fertilizer Control Board, FCS Financial, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Program, Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, McDonald’s and The Nature Conservancy.