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Three Finalists Selected for Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award

Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2020 Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award®.

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

In Kentucky, the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, the Kentucky Agricultural Council, and the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts.

The finalists are:

  • F.L. Sipes Farm of Ekron in Meade County: Fred Sipes raises tobacco, soybeans, corn, wheat, hay, produce and beef cattle. He has reduced soil erosion and improved water quality by installing grassed waterways, planting cover crops, and implementing crop rotations and no-till practices on his land. He uses rotational grazing practices to feed his cattle. These conservation practices have improved soil health, and wildlife habitat found on the farm.
  • Graskop Farm of Nonesuch in Woodford County: Geri, Steve and Ben Isaacs raise beef cattle, hay and table grapes on cropland, pasture and woodlands that overlook the Kentucky River. Utilizing no-tillage practices, crop rotations, grassed waterways and rotational grazing have allowed them to reduce erosion, and improve soil and water quality. Planting trees and plants best suited for the topography has created a favorable habitat favorable to birds and wildlife.
  • JRS Angus Farm of Lawrenceburg in Anderson County: James R. ‘Buddy’ and Sandie Smith grow cover crops and use rotational grazing to feed their herd of beef cattle. Conservation practices have been implemented across the farm’s pastures, hay fields, and forests to reduces soil erosion and improve water quality. In addition to raising pumpkins, the Smiths have also planted areas in vegetation that attract wildlife and insect pollinators.

The award recipient will be announced later this year and recognized at the next Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts Convention.

“The Kentucky Agricultural Council is proud to once again partner with the Sand County Foundation and the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts to recognize exceptional stewardship and conservation practices among Kentucky’s private landowners,” said Mark Barker, Kentucky Agricultural Council Chairman. “The finalists for the 2020 Leopold Conservation Award are extraordinary.”

“KACD and conservation districts promote the sound management of all our natural resources and we are excited to join Sand County Foundation and the Kentucky Agricultural Council in recognizing these well deserving landowners in Kentucky,” said Shane Wells, Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts President. “The Association and conservation districts work daily to assist private landowners in their efforts to adopt sound soil and water conservation practices on their land that benefit us all.”

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

The Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award is made possible thanks to the generous support and partnership of Kentucky Agricultural Council, Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts, Sand County Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, AgriBusiness Association of Kentucky, Farm Credit Mid-America, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Kentucky Corn Growers Association, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, Kentucky Pork Producers, Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board, Kentucky State University, Kentucky Tree Farm Committee, Kentucky Woodland Owner’s Association, and the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 21 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

For more information on the award, 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, New York, 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.

KENTUCKY AGRICULTURAL COUNCIL is a 501(c)(3) organization consisting of some 80 agricultural organizations representing all sectors of Kentucky agriculture. The membership is composed of commodity groups, state and federal agricultural organizations, agricultural trade organizations and the state’s institutions of higher education that serve Kentucky agriculture. The KAC functions as an umbrella group and hub for its members, disseminating information and promoting coordination among all agricultural organizations and sectors. Since 2006, the KAC also has served as the “steward of strategic planning” for the future of Kentucky agriculture and Kentucky’s rural communities.

KENTUCKY ASSOCIATION OF CONSERVATION DISTRICTS is 501(c)(3) organization consisting of Kentucky’s local conservation districts and watershed conservancy districts. KACD encourages the exchange of information relating to the administration and operation of conservation districts and watershed conservancy districts; to affect cooperation between districts and agencies and organizations concerned with any and all phases of soil and water conservation; to promote the welfare of conservation districts and watershed conservancy districts and the people therein; and to maintain strong and active membership in both KACD and the National Association of Conservation Districts.

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