Finalists for Missouri Leopold Conservation Award Selected

By 0 Comment

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Three finalists have been selected for the prestigious 2021 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award®. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat in their care.

“The finalists for this year’s Leopold Conservation Award are excellent examples of family farms exhibiting the highest level of conservation,” said Scott Edwards, NRCS State Conservationist. “The commitment they have made to implement conservation and improve their operations is a true success story.”

In Missouri, the $10,000 award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“Recipients of this award are real-life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

“In agriculture, our greatest resource is the land, and as farmers, it is our duty to be good stewards of that land for future generations,” said Kyle Durham, chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. “Sustainability is one of the top priorities for the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, and it’s outstanding to see the spotlight on farm families who are truly living the example of stewardship.”

Earlier this year, Missouri landowners were encouraged to apply, or be nominated, for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. The 2021 finalists are:

Britt Farms, Inc. of Clifton Hill in Randolph County: Ryan Britt and family are corn, soybean and wheat growers who utilize cover crops and no-till practices to prevent erosion and improve soil health. Grid sampling and variable rate fertilizer application technologies are used to protect soil nutrients and prevent the overuse of fertilizer. Their family uses a covered feeding facility in the winter, and rotationally grazes beef cattle in the summer to preserve water and grass resources. Britt Farms has provided habitat for wildlife and insect pollinators on wetlands and along field buffers.

Cope Grass Farms of Truxton in Lincoln County: Harry and Rose Cope, with the farm’s fifth-generation, Dustin and Sabrina Cope, raise a variety of livestock including grass-fed, grass-finished beef and lamb, acorn-fed pork, and pastured duck and turkey. Native pasture mixes, timber stand improvements, cover crops and prescribed burns improve soil health and provide wildlife habitat on the diversified, regenerative operation. Cope Grass Farms is one of seven farms in Missouri certified by the Audubon Conservation Ranching Program as producing grassland bird-friendly beef.

Oetting Homestead Farms of Concordia in Lafayette County: Steve and Sharon Oetting, along with their sons, Sean and Clint, manage a hog finishing business and grow corn and soybeans at a farm that has been in their family for 180 years. They have been recognized by state and federal stewardship programs for responsibly preventing soil erosion and properly storing and utilizing their animal waste. Precision agricultural technology ensures fields are fertilized according to crop needs. They have planted pollinator habitats and nearly 10,000 trees within riparian buffer strips and are always looking for more conservation opportunities.

“These Missouri family farms exhibit a deep understanding and commitment to future generations and sustainability,” said Missouri Farmers Care Chairman Jeff Houts. “As so many things in agriculture are constantly changing, these finalists understand that focused strategies for enhancing the land and water are forever at the root of defining success.”

The inaugural recipient of the Missouri Leopold Conservation Award® in 2017 was presented to Uptown Farms in Laclede. The 2018 recipient was Scherder Farms in Frankford. The 2019 recipient was Brinker Farms Inc. in Auxvasse. Last year’s recipients were Joshlin and Addie Yoder in Leonard. This year’s recipient will be announced in November at the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture in Osage Beach, Missouri.

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Missouri award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognize the integral role of all three.”

The Leopold Conservation Award Program in Missouri is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Sand County Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, MFA, Inc., Missouri Fertilizer Control Board, FCS Financial, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Program, Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, McDonald’s and The Nature Conservancy in Missouri.

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 23 states with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations.

# # #

Photo Caption: Three finalists – Britt Farms, Inc., Cope Grass Farms, and Oetting Homestead Farms – have been selected for the prestigious 2021 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award®. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. This year’s recipient will be announced in November 2021 at the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture. Pictured (L-R): Britt Farms, Inc., Cope Grass Farms; and Oetting Homestead Farms.


The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont).

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.

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.

Missouri Farmers Care Foundation enables Missourians to understand the influence and importance of agriculture in their daily lives by serving as the centralized hub of the unified educational programs, awards, and hunger relief efforts of Missouri’s agricultural community.

The Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council is a statewide, farmer-led organization working to improve opportunities for Missouri soybean farmers through a combination of research, outreach, education and market development efforts through the soybean checkoff.

NRCS, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, provides financial and technical assistance on a voluntary basis to land users interested in protecting, restoring and enhancing natural resources. NRCS helps people help the land through more than 100 local offices located in USDA Service Centers. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.