Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the 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.
The finalists are:
•Tomandl Farms of Medford in Marathon and Taylor counties: As former agriculture educators, Joe and Christy Tomandl regularly host pasture walks at their three dairy farms, where they show the benefits of rotational grazing and conservation practices. Joe leads the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, a first-ofits- kind program in the nation that helps others establish their own farms. In addition to a large wetland the Tomandls restored, they provide bird and wildlife habitat on pastures and woodlands.
•Full Circle Farm of Seymour in Shawano County: With nearly all of its 240 acres in pasture, Full Circle Farm builds soil organic matter while sequestering carbon. Rick Adamski, Valerie Dantoin and their son Andrew rotationally graze beef cattle, raise pastured hogs and laying hens, and 10 acres of vegetables. Their farm’s woodlands, wetlands, natural pond, riparian buffers and fence lines provide habitat and migration corridors for wildlife, birds and beneficial pollinators.
•Joe Hovel of Conover in Vilas County: Joe Hovel protects unique and fragile habitats in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. A woodland owner since in the 1970s, he began prioritizing the protection of ecologically important parcels in Vilas County in the 80s. He now manages 3,300 acres in several counties, including Porcupine Tree Farm and the Upper Wisconsin River Legacy Forest. His County Line Wood Products evolved from picnic tables to log homes, employing local labor using local timber. Hovel is the president and founder of the Partners in Forestry Landowners Cooperative.
•Noll’s Dairy Farm of Alma in Buffalo County: The Noll family has practiced soil and water conservation efforts on their farm overlooking the Mississippi River for generations. Curtis, Mark, Scott Noll and their families, grow cover crops and utilize no-till and contour strip cropping practices to prevent soil erosion. They restored and actively manage an ecologically rare dry bluff prairie that is home to many endangered species. Their managed forest provides oak timber production and wildlife habitat.
This year’s recipient will be revealed at November’s meeting of the Wisconsin Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. 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.
“Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is proud to support and recognize the conservation and sustainability efforts of the finalists. Dairy farmers strive to improve their land from generation to generation. This award recognizes the value these farmers have in advancing their land, soil, and water quality for the next year, next decade, and next generation,” said Patrick Geoghegan, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin Executive Vice President, Industry Relations.
“These finalists represent the diversity of agriculture in Wisconsin. Sustainability looks different from commodity to commodity and each conservation story is unique to the people and places that created it. We applaud these farmers for their efforts,” said Kevin Krentz, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President.
“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.
“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 2021 recipients were John and Dorothy Priske of Fall River.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Wisconsin is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from American Farmland Trust, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Sand County Foundation, Culver’s, Compeer Financial, McDonald’s, The Nature Conservancy, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, We Energies Foundation, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, and Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association.