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David Geiser Receives Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award

MADISON – David Geiser, a dairy farmer from Calumet County, has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award®.

Sand County Foundation, the nation’s leading voice for private conservation, created the Leopold Conservation Award to inspire American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers and foresters. The prestigious award, named in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is given in 14 states.

In Wisconsin 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.  

David Geiser and his wife, Deb Reinhart, are owners of Gold Star Dairy in New Holstein. His name was revealed as this year’s recipient at the November 15 meeting of the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in Madison. They will be presented with a $10,000 award, and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold, at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells on December 2. 

Geiser In Field

Some farmers focus on yield and profit. David Geiser is also driven by conservation and education.

A quiet leader, Geiser listens to others and learns about innovative practices before putting them to work at Gold Star Dairy. His reputation as a respected farmer and conservationist stems from his devotion to improve the health of soil, water, plants and cattle.

Geiser is passionate about learning how to best manage the fragile karst topography that his family has farmed between Lake Michigan and Lake Winnebago for more than a century.

Geiser came home to begin dairy farming in 1975. Installing a Natural Resources Conservation Service-approved manure storage facility in the 1980s was a huge undertaking, but the right thing to do. He established a successful rotational grazing system for his 100-cow herd in the 1990s. He witnessed how grazing allowed plants and soil to retain water rather than running off and compromising water quality. He was a founding member of the Calumet County Forage Council and received the Midwest Forage Council’s Pacesetter Award.

In 2000 straight line winds destroyed the farm’s barns. Like other dairies in the area, they had been growing their herd’s size to adapt to changes in the dairy economy. Decisions had to be made about the farm’s future.   

Grazing paddocks gave way to a freestall barn for more than 400 cows, but the acres of grass that surrounded the farmstead remained as a prudent way to minimize runoff and soil erosion. Geiser grows cover crops to feed his cattle and soil. He has hosted outreach and research efforts that examine how water moves through fractured bedrock systems and the unique geological features of karst. Fields with shallow bedrock are identified and carefully managed. Conservation practices adopted include vegetated buffer strips and no-till cultivation practices. Paved ditches and leachate storage areas transport and collect runoff responsibly. 

Geiser was one of the first Calumet County farmers to obtain a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan through the NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. His conservation practices have been passed on to the farmers that grow Gold Star Dairy’s feed. Gold Star Farms received the Calumet County Land Conservation Award in 2004.

Geiser has gone the extra mile to ensure a legacy at Gold Star Farms. His younger business partners and family members are mindful of the conservation enhancements found on their piece of rolling Wisconsin landscape.

Through hard work, perseverance, well-thought out decisions and luck, the farm has survived and thrived under Geiser’s leadership. Today on the 106-year-old family farm, Geiser continues to adapt, learn and implement conservation practices that will leave the land as a living legacy for generations to come.

“David has been an innovative leader in the dairy industry for many years,” said Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Jim Holte. “I learned that more than 30 years ago when we met while being involved in Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer program. He continues to be a progressive dairyman who strives for excellence when it comes to conservation. Through various management methods he makes sure he is leaving the land better than when he began. As a passionate advocate for conservation and the future of agriculture, Dave is extremely deserving of this award.”

“We’re pleased to see David Geiser’s long dedication to the principals of land stewardship have been recognized with the Leopold Conservation Award by the Sand County Foundation. David and his family epitomize the conscientious work that farmers across our state deploy to make Wisconsin a more sustainable and innovative place for everyone,” said Patrick Geoghegan, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Industry Relations. “The Geisers have demonstrated that outstanding environmental stewardship practices are good for the land, good for business and good for communities. On behalf of all Wisconsin dairy farmers, we congratulate everyone involved with Gold Star Farms.”

“David Geiser and the Gold Star Dairy family operation upholds the truest traditions and ideals of responsible farming,” said Matt Krueger, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association Executive Director. “Whether implementing best-management practices to hosting educational events for the public, David understands the sustainable and profitable benefits conservation brings to his operation, and teaches others to do the same. Congratulations to David Geiser, Deb Reinhart, and Gold Star Dairy.” 

Among the many outstanding Wisconsin landowners nominated for the award were finalists: Laverne Hensen of Mineral Point in Iowa County, and Jeff Lake of Boyceville in Dunn County.

The 2017 recipient was Brickstead Dairy of Greenleaf in Brown County. 

The Leopold Conservation Award in Wisconsin is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Compeer Financial, American Transmission Company, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, and We Energies Foundation.

For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.

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LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD 

The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION 

Sand County Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to working with private landowners across North America to advance ethical and scientifically sound land management practices that benefit the environment. www.sandcountyfoundation.org

WISCONSIN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation is Wisconsin's largest general farm organization. It represents nearly 24,000 farms and agriculturists who belong to one of 61 county Farm Bureaus found across the state. Much like Wisconsin's diverse agricultural landscape, Farm Bureau members represent all farm commodities, farm sizes and management styles. Farm Bureau's mission is to lead the farm and rural community through legislative representation, education, public relations and leadership development. www.wfbf.com

DAIRY FARMERS OF WISCONSIN

Funded by Wisconsin dairy farmers, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is a non-profit organization that focuses on marketing and promoting Wisconsin’s world-class dairy products.  www.WisconsinDairy.org

WISCONSIN LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION

The Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, is a membership organization that supports the efforts of 450 Land Conservation Committee supervisors and 350 conservation staff in 72 county Land Conservation Department offices through training, conservation standards development, youth education, grants, partnership building, and advocacy. www.wisconsinlandwater.org

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