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Finalists Selected for 2019 California Leopold Conservation Award

Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2019 California Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.

In California, the award is presented with Sustainable Conservation and the California Farm Bureau Federation.

California Rice Harvest

The finalists are:

  • Burroughs Family Farms of Denair in Stanislaus County. Ward and Rose Marie Burroughs and their children raise dairy and beef cattle, poultry, eggs, almonds and olives. Over the past 17 years they have transitioned all of their operations to meet certified organic standards. They continually refine their systems to reduce water use, improve soil fertility, and increase biodiversity. Rotationally grazing cattle and chickens in their orchards to feed on cover crops (rather than mowing or using herbicides) is one example of how they work to create one holistic, interrelated system of farming. They’ve hosted a variety of on-farm research projects, including studying the carbon-sequestration benefits of reincorporating almond hulls back into orchards after processing.
  • Philip Verwey Farms of Hanford in Kings County. Philip and Shelley Verwey’s 9,500-cow dairy farm conserves water and energy while producing milk and electricity. Water is used several times to chill milk tanks, clean the barn and parlor, and provide the herd’s drinking needs, thanks to a watering recycling system. A covered-lagoon manure digester generates electricity for the farm’s buildings, irrigation wells and 3,000 area homes. Replacing diesel-powered feed mixers with electric mixing stations increased efficiency while reducing air emissions. The Verweys are working toward a goal of becoming a net-zero carbon dairy farm. They have also dedicated habitat for native vegetation, trees, and birds.
  • Rominger Brothers Farm, Inc. of Winters in Yolo County. Brothers Bruce and Rick are the fifth generation to operate their diversified farm and ranch where they grow fruit, vegetable, tree, and grain crops. Water-wise drip irrigation and in-field moisture sensors are used to ensure their tomato crop receives no more water than is needed. Their habitat-improvement efforts include planting miles of hedgerows to benefit insect pollinators, restoring over 5,000 feet of stream corridors to connect riparian areas and wetlands, and managing irrigation water on their rice fields to boost declining shorebird populations. Protected from development through conservation easements, nearly 3,000 acres of the ranch will remain working lands in perpetuity.

The Leopold Conservation Award will be presented at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in December. The award recipient will receive $10,000 and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold.

“California continues to face some really big challenges, like competing demands for limited water supplies, loss of habitat and wildlife, and the big lift of transitioning to a cleaner, renewable-energy future,” said Ashley Boren, Executive Director of Sustainable Conservation, which has co-sponsored the award since its launch in California more than a decade ago. “The Burroughs, Verweys, and Romingers have all taken major steps over many years – often at their own expense and without convenient models to follow – in demonstrating what success in addressing pressing environmental issues looks like. It’s an honor to recognize the tremendous contributions these families have made toward a more vibrant future for us all, and all are deserving of the award.”

“Congratulations to this year’s Leopold Conservation Award finalists for showing how California farms and ranches of all types and sizes employ care and stewardship in producing crops, dairy foods and animal products,” said Jamie Johansson, California Farm Bureau Federation President.

“Leopold Conservation Award recipients are at the forefront of a movement by America’s farmers and ranchers to simultaneously achieve economic and environmental success,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer.

Earlier this year, farmers, ranchers and foresters were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural, forestry, wildlife, academic, and other conservation leaders.

The first California Leopold Conservation Award recipient, Lange Twins Wine Estates of Lodi, was selected in 2006. Lundberg Family Farms of Richvale received the award in 2018.

The Leopold Conservation Award in California is made possible thanks to the generous support of Sustainable Conservation, the California Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Credit, The Harvey L. & Maud S. Sorensen Foundation, The Nature Conservancy in California, McDonald’s, and California LCA recipient alumni.

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.”

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 20 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information, visit

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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, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont).


Sand County Foundation inspires and enables a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation.


Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing California’s land, air and water. Since 1993, it has brought together business, landowners and government to steward the resources that we all depend on in ways that are just and make economic sense. Sustainable Conservation believes common ground is California's most important resource.


The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 40,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 5.5 million Farm Bureau members.

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