California Leopold Conservation Award Finalists Selected
October 17, 2023
Two finalists have been selected for the 2023 California Leopold Conservation Award®.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife resources in their care.
The finalists are:
Bowles Farming Company Inc. of Los Banos in Merced County. For generations the Bowles and Lawrence families actively managed 640 acres of wetland habitat and restored key riparian corridors. They provide habitat for beneficial insect pollinators and participate in rigorous crop certification programs for tomatoes, corn, herbs, garlic, and cotton. About 1,800 truckloads of green waste from surrounding cities are converted into a source of high-quality soil amendments annually. Converting to drip irrigation has reduced their water usage and the risk of runoff.
Park Farming Organics of Meridian in Sutter County. The Park family grows rice, corn, wheat, flax, alfalfa, tomatoes, seed crops, and fresh market vegetables using production methods that mimic natural systems. They annually return 15 tons of organic biomass per acre to the soil through their use of cover crops, compost applications, and crop residue returns. They conserve and enhance biological cycling of crop nutrients rather than importing them from external sources. Their emphasis on soil health makes their crops less susceptible to pests.
The Leopold Conservation Award will be presented during the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in December. The award recipient will receive $10,000 and a crystal award.
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. Beretta Family Dairy of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County received the award in 2022.
The Leopold Conservation Award in California is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Sustainable Conservation, California Farm Bureau Federation, Sand County Foundation The Harvey L. & Maud C. Sorensen Foundation, Farm Credit, The Nature Conservancy in California, McDonald’s, and California LCA recipient alumni.
“Working lands are a critical part of our watershed, species, and human health,” said Ashley Boren, CEO of Sustainable Conservation, which has co-sponsored the award since its launch in California more than a decade ago. “The Park, Bowles, and Lawrence families don’t just implement known beneficial practices – they innovate and strive to make every part of their farms better every single day. We’re honored to help spotlight each family’s exceptional stewardship, and each are deserving of the award.”
“On behalf of the California Farm Bureau we congratulate this year’s finalists for the Leopold Conservation Award. They are showcasing on a daily basis good environmental stewardship in managing their farm and ranch operations while producing safe, affordable food for Californians and consumers across the globe. We continue to appreciate the partnership between our two organizations,” said Jamie Johansson, California Farm Bureau Federation President.
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust, celebrates the hard work and dedication of the California award finalists,” said John Piotti, American Farmland Trust President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”
“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.
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 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.