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Finalists Selected for Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award

MADISON – Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2018 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. 

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.  

The finalists are:

  • David Geiser of New Holstein in Calumet County: Geiser is an owner of Gold Star Dairy Farms. The home to 450 Holstein cows has hosted many tours on grazing and management of livestock on karst soil. Geiser builds soil health with the use of cover crops and no-till cultivation practices. Vegetated buffer strips and paved ditches collect and utilize rain and snowmelt rather than lose it to the nearby Manitowoc River.  
  • Laverne Hensen of Mineral Point in Iowa County: Hensen has revitalized the farm and wooded land he purchased in 1995. Invasive box elder trees were replaced with more than 400,000 black walnut, white fir and red oak trees on 500 acres. More than 30 new grass waterways were installed, as was a 2.5 acre pond for wildlife habitat. Soil for his 900 acres of corn and soybeans benefit from cover crops and no-till cultivation practices.  
  • Jeff Lake of Boyceville in Dunn County: Lake farms 1,500 acres of corn, soybeans, snap beans, kidney beans and alfalfa with no-till cultivation practices. To provide wildlife habitat and gain efficiencies, some marginal cropland has been converted into grass and full season cover crops. Earlier this year those efforts earned Lake the first-ever Precision Agriculture Farmer of the Year award from Pheasants Forever.  

This year’s recipient will be revealed at the November 15 meeting of the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in Madison. The award will be presented December 2 at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells. 

“Conservation and sustainability are important to farmers of all walks of life,” said Jim Holte, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President. “These finalists really showcase the diversity found within Wisconsin’s agriculture industry and are a great example to us all of how conservation practices can be integrated into a successful farm.”

“The conservation efforts of farmers across the state are reflected in the strength of these candidates for the Leopold Conservation Award. Wisconsin continues to be a leader in land stewardship,” said Patrick Geoghegan, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Industry Relations. 

“The three Leopold Conservation Award finalists exemplify that conservation stewardship is as profitable as it is responsible for all kinds of agriculture, whether cash crops, dairy, or forestry,” said Matt Krueger, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association Executive Director. “These farmers consider the various environmental conditions unique to their area, knowing that their investment in the health of their land and water is an investment in the sustainability of their operation for years to come.”

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. 

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 14 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. 

For more information on the award, visit

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The Leopold Conservation Awardis 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 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. 


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.


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.


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.