Boyceville’s Jeff and Kelly Lake have been been selected as the recipients of the 2019 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award.
Lake Family Farms was revealed as this year’s award winner at the Nov. 7 meeting of the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in Madison. The Lakes will be presented with $10,000 and a crystal award at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells on Dec. 8.
“There’s a lot of good farmers out there doing a lot of good things and to be up in the ranks, that’s quite the honor,” Jeff Lake said in September when he was announced as a finalist.
Given in honor of conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land.
In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”
The $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association.
“The Lake family is very deserving of this award,” Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Jim Holte said. “From his involvement with a farmer-led watershed group to his passion for education and partnerships with the University of Wisconsin and UW Discovery Farms, it is obvious that Jeff, and his entire family, is committed to being sustainable today and for generations to come.”
The Lakes were selected among a group of finalists that included Bill Ciolkosz of Thorp and John and Dorothy Priske of Fall River.
“Jeff Lake and his family are using modern technologies to cultivate the land and resources within their care. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin congratulates Lake Family Farms for their award-winning environmental stewardship and applauds their willingness to share their knowledge and experiences of conservation practices with the agricultural community,” said Patrick Geoghegan, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Industry Relations.
Lake Family Farms has 1,500 acres of corn, soybeans, snap beans, kidney beans and alfalfa, according to the Sand County Foundation. They have adopted farming technology for variable-rate planting and fertilizing to not over apply nutrients that can lead to runoff. The Lakes use buffer strips along the edges of his fields that are near streams or wetlands to act as a filter while also providing food and shelter for wildlife.
For their conservation efforts, the Lakes were previously given the first-ever Precision Agriculture Farmer of the Year award from Pheasants Forever, an organization dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife.
“He practices what he preaches,” John Sippl, district conservationist for the Menomonie field office of Natural Resources Conservation Service said of Jeff Lake. “He is a strong advocate for water quality and wildlife habitat and the practices that he’s doing on his farm showcases that.”
Owners of Wisconsin farmland and forests were encouraged to apply for the award earlier this year and applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.
Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 20 states with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations. For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.
“The Lake family are model land stewards that exemplify the cumulative power conservation practices have on farmland,” said Matt Krueger, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association Executive Director. “From buffer stripping and no-till to pollinator habitats and variable spraying, Jeff and his family show how precision agriculture and conservation work hand-in-hand to improve soil fertility, water quality and crop production. Congratulations to the Lake family as the 2019 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award recipients and thank you for your hard work and leadership.”