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Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award Finalists Selected

Four finalists have been selected for the 2023 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat in their care.

In Wisconsin the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

The finalists are:

  • Bartling’s Manitowish Cranberry Co. of Manitowish Waters in Vilas County: Brothers David and Steven have improved cranberry yields with nutrient management for better plant and soil health. They planted five acres of native pollinator gardens for the honey bees needed to increase crop pollination. Efficient water management has reduced input costs and improved water quality. The cranberry leaves that come off the plant when cranberries are harvested is later sold to local gardeners and landscapers.
  • Full Circle Farm of Seymour in Shawano County: Full Circle Farm builds soil organic matter while sequestering carbon on its pastures. Rick Adamski, Valerie Dantoin and their son Andrew rotationally graze beef cattle, raise pastured hogs and laying hens, and grow 10 acres of vegetables. Their farm’s woodlands, wetlands, natural pond, riparian buffers, and fence lines provide habitat and migration corridors for wildlife, birds, and beneficial pollinators.
  • Joe Hovel of Conover in Vilas County: Joe Hovel protects unique and fragile habitats in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. A woodland owner since in the 1970s, he began prioritizing the protection of ecologically important land in the 80s. He now manages 3,300 acres in several counties, including Porcupine Tree Farm and the Upper Wisconsin River Legacy Forest. Hovel owns County Line Wood Products and is the president and founder of the Partners in Forestry Landowners Cooperative.
  • Noll’s Dairy Farm of Alma in Buffalo County: The Noll family has practiced soil and water conservation efforts on their farm overlooking the Mississippi River for generations. Curtis, Mark, and Scott Noll grow cover crops and utilize no-till and contour strip cropping practices to prevent soil erosion. They restored and actively manage an ecologically rare dry bluff prairie that is home to many endangered species. Their managed forest provides oak timber production and wildlife habitat.

This year’s recipient will be revealed at November’s meeting of the Wisconsin Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Earlier this year, owners of Wisconsin farmland and forests were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.

“Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is proud to support and recognize the conservation efforts of the finalists. Dairy farmers strive to improve their land and water resources from generation to generation and this award recognizes the impact these farmers have in advancing their land, soil, and water quality for the next generation,” said Chad Vincent, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin CEO.

“These finalists represent the diversity of agriculture in Wisconsin. From dairy to cranberries, Wisconsin farmers share the goal of being safe and sustainable while keeping their farms productive. We applaud these farmers for their efforts,” said Kevin Krentz, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President.

“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 Wisconsin 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.”

The first Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award was presented to woodland conservationist Gerry Mich of Appleton in 2006. The 2022 recipients were Joe and Christy Tomandl of Medford.

The Leopold Conservation Award in Wisconsin is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from American Farmland Trust, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Sand County Foundation, Culver’s, Compeer Financial, McDonald’s, The Nature Conservancy, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, We Energies Foundation, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board.

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 with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations. For more information on the award, visit

Bartling WI 23

Bartling’s Manitowish Cranberry Co. of Manitowish Waters in Vilas County

Adamski 23

Full Circle Farm of Seymour in Shawano County

Hovel Wi Lca 22

Joe Hovel of Conover in Vilas County

Noll Wi Lca22 2

Noll’s Dairy Farm of Alma in Buffalo County


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).


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 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families.


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.


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.


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.