Finalists Selected for Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award
October 16, 2023
Two finalists have been selected for the 2023 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award®.
The $10,000 award honors farmers and forestland owners who go above and beyond in their management of soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat on working land.
Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states. In Pennsylvania, the award is presented with The Heinz Endowments, Horizon Farm Credit, and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to environmental improvement. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for what he called “a land ethic,” an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.
The finalists are:
Myers Family Farm of Spring Mills in Centre County: Joel Myers uses a variety of conservation practices to prevent soil erosion on his corn, soybean, and alfalfa fields. A no-till and crop rotation system is combined with growing cover crops of tillage radish, ryegrass, and hairy vetch. Wildlife, bird, and fish habitats have been enhanced by tree plantings and stream bank improvements on 75 acres of wild and forest land. Joel regularly shares his expertise in agronomy, farming, and conservation through field days and workshops.
Troy Firth of Spartansburg in Crawford County: As owner and manager of Firth Maple Products, Troy shows that forestry can be economically profitable and ecologically nurturing. He’s also the state’s second largest producer of maple syrup and was the founder of the Foundation for Sustainable Forests. His unconventional approach to selecting timber for harvest fosters healthy trees and abundant bird habitat. To better understand his impact, the National Aviary is conducting a multi-year study of songbird diversity in forests he manages.
The award will be presented during this winter’s Pennsylvania Farm Show. Applications submitted by landowners or on their behalf earlier this year, were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. Last year’s Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award was presented to Flinchbaugh’s Orchard & Farm of Hellam in York County.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Pennsylvania is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, The Heinz Endowments, Horizon Farm Credit, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Sand County Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, and The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania.
“Troy Firth and Joel Myers exemplify conservation in Pennsylvania agriculture,” Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Chris Hoffman said. “We want our farms to continue producing so that we can pass them down to future generations. These deserving finalists are being recognized not only for their on-farm innovation in improving soil health, protecting water quality, and preserving natural habitats, but also for their efforts in educating others who wish to follow their example as they produce food, fiber and fuel in a growing global marketplace.”
“Pennsylvania farmers have made great strides toward protecting our water, soil and land for future generations,” Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Not just for the health and sustainability of their own farms, but for the clean water and healthy environment of everyone in the Mid-Atlantic region. These Leopold Conservation Award finalists exemplify the culture and heritage of stewardship that is shared among so many Pennsylvania farmers. They are models of how we should all strive toward a sustainable future.”
“Farm Credit is proud to play a role in recognizing these outstanding Pennsylvania producers,” said Tom Truitt, Horizon Farm Credit CEO. “The annual Leopold Conservation Award honors leaders within the agriculture industry who, through their thoughtful investments and conscientious practices, are contributing to the quality of our environment, now and in the future. This year’s finalists are certainly accomplishing that goal. We look forward to the bright futures that lie ahead for their operations and the communities they impact.”
“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.
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Pennsylvania award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT 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.”
For more information, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.
LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont). www.leopoldconservationaward.org
AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST
American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through its No Farms, No Food message. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families. www.farmland.org
HORIZON FARM CREDIT
Horizon Farm Credit is an agricultural lending cooperative, part of the national Farm Credit System, owned by its member-borrowers. The Association has more than 22,900 members and over $6.2 billion in loans outstanding. Horizon Farm Credit serves Delaware, Pennsylvania, and parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia by providing farm loans for land, equipment, livestock and production; crop insurance; and rural home mortgages. www.horizonfc.com
PENNSYLVANIA FARM BUREAU
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization, representing farms of every size and commodity across Pennsylvania. www.pfb.com
SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION
Sand County Foundation inspires and empowers 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. www.sandcountyfoundation.org
THE HEINZ ENDOWMENTS
The Heinz Endowments is devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic and environmental sustainability. Core to our work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive. http://www.heinz.org/