Finalists selected for WI Leopold Conservation Award

Sand County Foundation

Three finalists have been selected for the 2021 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat in their care.  

In Wisconsin the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.  

Mike Berg and his family.

Mike Berg of Blanchardville

Lafayette County farmer Mike Berg’s farm has long featured contour strips and no-till practices. Recently he’s planted more than 25,000 trees. Rip-rapping installed along the Pecatonica River has reduced erosion, minimized cropland damage from flooding, and improved fish habitat. Waterways are lined with grass buffer strips of at least 16 feet in width.

Berg’s beef cattle are rotationally grazed in a manner than encourages grass growth while retaining soil.

Charlie Hammer and Nancy Kavazanjian of Dodge County

Charlie Hammer and Nancy Kavazanjian of Beaver Dam

These Dodge County farmers are early adopters of reduced-tillage farming methods are also leaders in other ecological ways to protect soil and water. Cover crops are incorporated into their corn, soybean and winter wheat crop rotation.

Pollinator habitats and prairie strips of native wildflowers and grasses are installed within their crop fields. Duck scrapes and food plots provide wildlife habitat. Solar and wind energy systems reduce their farm’s carbon footprint and electrical bills.  

John and Dorothy Priske of Fall River

John and Dorothy Priske of Fall River

The Priskes of Columbia County adopted no-till and rotational grazing practices, and installed grass waterways to improve water infiltration, sequester carbon and build organic matter in their soil.

They raised and direct marketed Scottish Highland beef cattle until 2015. Their pastures provided deep-rooted ground cover to reduce soil erosion. The Priskes lease 165 acres of farmland to Madison College for use as an agricultural education facility.

This year’s recipient will be revealed later this year. Earlier this year, owners of Wisconsin farmland and forests were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.

“Wisconsin farmers and farm families continue to innovate and excel towards sustainability goals. These finalists are very deserving of the recognition for the work they are doing to leave the land, water and soil better for the next generation,” said Kevin Krentz, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President.

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Wisconsin award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

The first Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award was presented to woodland conservationist Gerry Mich of Appleton in 2006. The 2020 recipient was John and Melissa Eron of Stevens Point in Portage County.