Kavazanjian of Beaver Dam wins National Conservation Legacy Award

Gloria Hafemeister
Nancy Kavazanjian farms with her husband Charlie Hammer at Beaver Dam and was awarded the American Soybean Association’s Conservation Legacy Award at that organization’s annual meeting in Texas last week.

BEAVER DAM – Beaver Dam grain farmer Nancy Kavazanjian was presented, last week, with the American Soybean Association’s Conservation Legacy Award at that organization’s annual meeting at the Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Texas.

Kavazanjian, who farms with her husband Charlie Hammer, says the name of the award is appropriate because it recognizes her interest in leaving a legacy for her family by protecting the land and environment. She also thinks of the award as an honor to be shared with her husband because together the two have worked hard over the years to try new methods of establishing their crops that will prevent erosion and at the same time build a healthier soil.

She has farmed with Hammer, a fourth generation farmer, for more than 40 years and they are firmly rooted in their farm’s motto, “Our soil, our strength.”

“While the way we work to protect and improve our soils has evolved over the years, our resolve to uphold that motto has never wavered,” explains Kavazanjian. “It’s more important than ever today to realize our soil is what makes really good agriculture.”

The couple has planted trees on some of the odd-shaped pieces of their land as a part of the Conservation Reserve Program. They have established solar and wind systems to conserve energy.

With help from Beaver Dam FFA members they also established a pollinator habitat on the gravel-covered knolls to provide an atmosphere that supports native bees, butterflies, birds and wildlife. They are currently 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.

They are active with the local Healthy Soils organization and hosted a field day and meeting at their farm to help teach others about ways to improve soil health and the environment.

Each year the couple picks out a couple of acres of land for planting sweet corn. They enlist help from FFA students and others to pick it and deliver it to area food pantries.

Kavazanjian earned the award at a time when she just completed nine years serving as a representative on the United Soybean Board. When she was appointed to the position by the US Secretary of Agriculture she hesitated about whether she wanted to get involved.

She says, “It turned out to be one of the greatest experiences in my life. It helped to build my leadership skills and I met so many people and learned so much more from this group of people than any other group with which I’ve been involved.”

In that position she had the opportunity to travel around the country and the world and learn all about the soybean industry and the many uses for soybeans.

Another opportunity provided by her USB involvement was participating with other farmers and organizations in the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). 

That farmer-led organization includes other food and agricultural partners that share a common vision to further global sustainable food systems.

Kavazanjian and others involved with this group focus on creating a proactive collaboration between the best minds in food, agriculture, science, and technology to co-create solutions that will result in environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

She points out that consumers are concerned, not only about healthy safe food but also about sustainability and conservation which she believes go hand in hand.

Kavazanjian has come a long way since growing up on what she calls a “postage-sized lot” in Long Island, New York. She remembers telling her farmers about her dreams of farming but she got no encouragement from them.

She met her husband when each of them was attending a Top Farmers in America meeting in Chicago – she as a reporter with Commodity News Service and he as a farmer.

This was her first job as a journalist after getting an animal science/pre-vet degree from Colorado State University.

When the couple married in 1980 and they began to grow their farming operation, she continued working as a journalist for agricultural magazines and then for ten years at Morgan and Myers Advertising, an agricultural ad agency then located in Jefferson.

The couple has two children, Patrick, a commercial pilot, and Danielle who runs a strawberry farm at Mayville with her family.

They have four grandchildren and now that she will be spending less time travelling and promoting soybeans she looks forward to spending more time with them. Kavazanjian also hopes to get involved with some political campaigns in the future. 

She also continues to serve as the state treasurer of Wisconsin Women for Agriculture and plans to continue her promotion of agriculture and sustainable farming methods.

Whether working with farmers, family, youth or the consuming public, her goal remains to do what she can to demonstrate that farmers do care.