More than 70 years ago, Iowa native Aldo Leopold penned the idea of “land ethic,” calling for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.
In his book “A Sand County Almanac,” which is a collection of essays, Leopold wrote about how he viewed the relationship between humans and the land. “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect," he wrote.
Leopold, by many accounts, is considered the father of wildlife ecology in the U.S. He was a conservationist, forester, philosopher and educator. He died of a heart attack in 1948 before his essay collection was published.
Still, his influence in the area of land management lived on. In 1967, the Sand County Foundation created a private landowner partnership to protect the land surrounding Leopold’s Shack and Farm, which was placed on the National Historic Landmark registry in 2009.
Today, that same group continues to promote private, voluntary conservation by farmers, ranchers or foresters through the Leopold Conservation Award. The Sand County Foundation presents the award in 22 states.
State award winners
In Missouri, the $10,000 award is presented annually with state partners Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The Missouri Leopold Conservation Award began five years ago. Previous award winners include:
2017. Uptown Farms, Matt and Kate Lambert, Laclede
2018. Scherder Farms, John and Sandy Scherder, Frankford
2019. Brinker Farms, Kenny and Susan Brinker, Auxvasse
2020. Joshlin and Addie Yoder, Leonard
“The Leopold Conservation Award highlights the great work of Missouri farmers, ranchers and foresters,” says Gary Marshall, chairman of Missouri Farmers Care. “These efforts are firmly rooted in recognizing the enhanced stewardship of farming and ranching operations. This program highlights farmers’ best practices and purpose to meet an ultimate goal: leaving the land in better shape for the next generation.”
Recipients of the award are examples of conservation-minded agriculture, says Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation president and CEO. “These hardworking families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy," he says.
Award application process
There are two ways to nominate a farmer or landowner — the application can be submitted on behalf of the landowner, or landowners may nominate themselves.
Applications can be submitted online or mailed to Missouri Farmers Care, c/o Kari Asbury, 19 Kipling Way #19A, Columbia, MO 65201. All applications must be submitted or postmarked by June 30.
Finalists will be announced in September with plans to present the award in November at the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture.
The Leopold Conservation Award Program in Missouri is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council/Missouri Soybean Association, USDA NRCS, Sand County Foundation, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, MFA Inc., Missouri Fertilizer Control Board, Missouri Department of Conservation, Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, The Nature Conservancy in Missouri, McDonald’s, and the Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Program.
Missouri Farmers Care contributed to this article.