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Illinois Leopold Conservation Award Seeks Nominees

Nominations and applications are now being accepted for the 2024 Illinois Leopold Conservation Award®.

The 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 Illinois the award is presented with state partners: IL Corn and Illinois Soybean Association.

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.

Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner, or landowners may nominate themselves. The application deadline is May 1, 2024. The application can be found at

Applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. The recipient receives $10,000, and their conservation success story will be featured in a video and in other outreach. The recipient will be announced this summer. The recipient of last year’s inaugural award was Frey Family Farms of Dahlgren.

“After a successful first year, IL Corn is thrilled to honor another farmer leading the state through their implementation of conservation practices,” said Jon Rosenstiel, IL Corn Marketing Board Chairman. “Working alongside the Illinois Soybean Association, we aim to continue recognizing farmers making a positive impact on the health of our soil, air, water, and environment. Our organization is driven to meet the Nutrient Loss Strategy goals and finds joy in highlighting farmers who set an example for others.”

“The Illinois Soybean Association is proud to support the Illinois Leopold Conservation Award once again, alongside our friends at IL Corn,” said Ron Kindred, ISA Chairman and farmer from Atlanta. “We value this opportunity to recognize farmers in Illinois who prioritize the implementation of conservation practices to protect soil and water quality. Highlighting their outstanding efforts will hopefully encourage others to investigate how they can implement more conservation on their farms.”

“Leopold Conservation Award recipients 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 farmers, ranchers and forestland owners,” 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 Illinois Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, IL Corn, Illinois Soybean Association, Sand County Foundation, Coleman Family Fund, Farm Credit Illinois, Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership, McDonald’s, The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, Compeer Financial, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service of Illinois.

LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM 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 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families.

IL CORN is made up of two farmer-led organizations that serve corn farmers in Illinois: IL Corn Growers Association (ICGA) and IL Corn Marketing Board (ICMB). ICGA represents the interests of Illinois corn farmers in Washington, DC and Springfield, IL, while ICMB is focused on growing demand, creating new markets, and fostering understanding of corn farmers and the corn industry. Through these two organizations, IL Corn seeks to position corn farmers to create and capture profit opportunities, preserve their independence, and prosper for generations.

ILLINOIS SOYBEAN ASSOCIATION (ISA) checkoff and membership programs represent more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and government relations, while the membership program, Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) and the Illinois Soybean Growers PAC actively advocates for positive and impactful legislation for farmers at local, state, and national levels. ISA upholds the interests of Illinois soybean farmers through promotion, advocacy, research, and education with the vision of becoming a trusted partner of Illinois soybean farmers to ensure their profitability now and for future generations.

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.