A Columbia County farm family has been named a finalist for the 2019 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award.
The winner will be awarded $10,000 from the Sand County Foundation, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association.
The award is presented to farmers who uphold standards of conservation and sustainable farming to honor the work and ethics of Aldo Leopold, according to a press release from the Sand County Foundation.
This year’s finalists include John and Dorothy Priske in Columbia County, owners of Fountain Prairie farm near Fall River. Other finalists are Bill Ciolkosz in Clark County and Jeff Lake in Dunn County.
The Priskes have practiced no-till and rotational grazing practices for the Scottish Highland Cattle they raised until 2015. They also have worked to improve grass waterways to prevent carbon and organic matter buildup in the soil on their farms.
In February 2018, the Priskes leased 165 acres of their 280-acre farm to Madison College for the college’s agriculture program. The land is being used to provide hands-on learning in outdoor classrooms and laboratories to teach students about sustainable farming.
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Lance Irving, the national director for the Leopold Conservation award program for the Sand County Foundation, said the finalists chosen this year represent the foundation’s conservation ideals.
“All three of these finalists embody that conservation and production should have a symbiotic relationship,” Irving said. “They’re making conservation practices work not only for the environmental benefits, but for the health of their farm. Their conservation has both environmental and economic benefits.”
Irving said what also sets the finalists apart is their willingness to teach conservation practices.
“They’re not only helping themselves, but they are sharing those ideas with their neighbors, with the broader community, so that entire communities are benefiting,” Irving said. “Not just from having one person do great things, they are sharing and passing that knowledge along.”
The winner will be chosen in November at a meeting for the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in Madison. The award will be presented Dec. 8 at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Wisconsin Dells.