Wisconsin Farmer Wins National Conservation Award
The American Soybean Association (ASA) presented Andy Bensend, from Dallas, Wis., with the 2017 National Conservation Legacy Award during the annual ASA Awards Banquet on Friday, March 3, at Commodity Classic in San Antonio.
Prior to Andy Bensend’s recognition as the program’s national winner, he was named the Midwest Regional winner of the Conservation Legacy Award. The national award winner is chosen from three regional winners. The other 2017 regional winners were Keith Masser, Sacramento, Pa. (Northeast Region) and Matt Griggs, Humboldt, Tenn. (South Region).
The Conservation Legacy Awards program is a national program designed to recognize the outstanding environmental and conservation achievements of soybean farmers, which help to produce more sustainable U.S. soybeans. Along with ASA, the program is co-sponsored by BASF, Monsanto, Corn & Soybean Digest magazine, the United Soybean Board/Soybean Checkoff and Valent.
Andy Bensend has found ways to improve the conservation and sustainable practices on his farm for over 30 years. He is not shy about sharing what he has learned with other farmers and often hosts events and demonstrations on the land he farms in Northwest Wisconsin.
Over the years, Bensend has developed a successful formula based on no-till, integrated pest management, crop rotation, cover crops and perseverance. Today, his enterprises include more than 4,000 acres of primarily corn and soybeans using no-till or strip-till practices; he also has a custom farming business that serves area dairy producers, in addition to a consulting service that assists area farmers with agronomy and nutrient management planning.
A more extended video on each award winner’s operation is available below. Questions regarding the Conservation Legacy Awards may be directed to Michelle Hummel in the ASA office at 314-754-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See below for on-farm videos about the conservation efforts of award winners.
Andy Winsor gives much of the credit for this award to the generations before him who initiated the farm’s conservation program. “Grandpa and Dad started conservation efforts, building terraces and waterways and farming on the contour,” Andy says. “Having those practices in place allows my brother and I to implement newer conservation techniques, such as water management and cover crops.”
Andy and his wife, LaVell, farm 4,400 acres with Andy’s parents Russell and Pat, his brother Ben and his wife Emily. Ben specializes in livestock and Andy and Russell handle cropland operations.
“I’ve got land I call never till. I will never till it – there’s no structure on those sandy soils when they’re tilled.” Instead, Atkins is improving poor soil structure and boosting organic matter with a combination of no-till and cover crops.
Atkins explains further, “Cover crops and no-till are the core of my conservation program, and to me, conservation is a big part of the total management package on the land I farm.”
“Back then, we analyzed soil samples and used NDVI to pick up different vegetative growth patterns in our fields. We saw the need for variable rate fertilizer, and started that while I was still in school. We still use it – to this day, Granddad thinks variable rate fertilizer has increased our yield and added to our bottom line more than any other change we have made in the operation.”
Verell has also planted grass buffer strips along streams to protect wildlife and established a pollinator habitat on his operation through a new pollinator program offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
One of the first conservation measures Berger remembers experiencing as a child is building terraces. He helped build 15 miles around his fourth generation farm at Dennis Berger & Son Inc., to slow down the impact of the rainfall on soil erosion.
Berger farms with his mom, dad and wife on their 2,000 acre soybean and corn operation with 20,000 head swine. They’ve been heavily involved in soil conservation since the 1960s. The Bergers introduced no-till nearly 40 years ago and cover crops in the last 15 years. Berger said he believes that farmers must be shown conservation practices can work effectively and economically, so more of them will embrace conservation voluntarily.
The sixth generation Starkey family farm lies in an urban area just west of the metropolitan area of Indianapolis. In addition to a dramatic reduction of commercial fertilizer, Starkey has used no-till soybeans since 1989 and introduced cover crops in 2005. He also entered in a NRCS field grant study to monitor tile and stream water.
“My legacy as a conservationist is to improve and protect the borrowed living soil that God has given us and to keep our water clean and pure as the raindrops that fall from the sky,” Starkey said.
Thomas Family Farms Inc. is a traditional, diverse North Carolina operation incorporating corn, soybeans and wheat, tobacco and swine production.
Three generations worktogether at Thomas Family Farms: Pete and Levon Thomas; their sons Jimmy and Timmy; Jimmy’s wife Janine and two grandsons. The family incorporated a range of conservation practices into the entire operation. As they picked up new land through purchases or leases, they implemented no-till practices on the new farms. For the Thomas family, conservation means constant improvement.
“There will always be new generations of the family, new employees, and new technologies and new knowledge about the environment, and we have to be prepared to keep up,” Thomas said.
Jefferson, Iowa David Ausberger in cooperation with the Iowa Soybean Association developed a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan to reduce nutrient loss and better manage inputs. As a Certified Conservation Farmer, Ausberger shares his success with advanced conservation measures with other farmers in his area through more than 40 hours of classroom and field experience. Finally, Ausberger is part owner of a seven-turbine wind farm that generates enough electricity for his entire community.
2014 Midwest Region Winner (National Winner)
David Ausberger in cooperation with the Iowa Soybean Association developed a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan to reduce nutrient loss and better manage inputs. As a Certified Conservation Farmer,
Ausberger shares his success with advanced conservation measures with other farmers in his area through more than 40 hours of classroom and field experience. Finally, Ausberger is part owner of a seven-turbine wind farm that generates enough electricity for his entire community.
2014 Northeast Region Winner
The Legans’ operation is both 100 percent no-till and 100 percent cover cropped, which Phyllis says enhances soil biological activity and improves organic matter.
The Legans also utilize the manure from their large-scale hog operation as a nutrient for integration into their soil. Through drainage tiling, cover cropping, man-made wetlands and other methods, the Legans are also invested in smart water management on their farm as well.
2014 South Region Winner
Peery began no-till farming on his land after attending several field days with no-till pioneers Shirley Phillips and Harry Young, Jr., in the late 1960s, and since the mid-1980s, the Peery farm has been entirely no-till. In addition to no-till, Peery utilizes annual rotation, buffer strips and waterways, cover crops, advanced soil and tissue testing, and makes extensive use of GPS and other precision agriculture technology to allow for more precise application of inputs and collection of valuable data. This provides Peery with a vast set of data points from which to ensure he receives maximum benefits from the smallest amount of inputs and environmental impact. Technology is a key component of the modern-day operation for Peery, who started with a 1949 Allis Chalmers and a harvester with a 10-foot header. Today, Peery harvests with a cutting-edge tractor and combine technology.
2013 Midwest Region Winner (National Winner)
Gail Fuller approaches conservation on his Kansas farm with a heavy emphasis on soil health including continuous no-till, utilizing cover crops and maximizing microbes. He always looks for ways to reduce inputs. Fuller is working to rebuild the quail population and has added a livestock component to his farm.
2013 Northeast Region Winner
Roger Wenning’s conservation efforts on his Indiana farm include a commitment to soil health and no-till farming. He continually experiments with cover crops and evaluates for best results. Wenning has addressed drainage issues and made conservation buffers an integral part of his operation.
2013 South Region Winner
Jeremy Jack addresses conservation on his Mississippi farm first through water management, which then helps determine careful management of soil and nutrients. He utilizes one-pass tillage, input management practices and current technologies. Jack’s farm is participating in a working-lands stewardship project.
CONSERVATION LEGACAY AWARD WINNERS
2015 Midwest Region – Steve Berger, Dennis Berger & Son, Inc., Wellman, Iowa
2015 Northeast Region – Mike Starkey, M & J Farms, Brownsburg, Indiana
2015 South Region – Jimmy Thomas, Thomas Family Farms, Timberlake, N.C.
2015 National – Steve Berger, Dennis Berger & Son, Inc., Wellman, Iowa
2014 Midwest Region – David Ausberger, Ausberger Farms, Jefferson, Iowa
2014 Northeast Region – Mark & Phyllis Legan, Legan Livestock & Grain, Coatesville, Ind.
2014 South Region – Jerry Peery, Springhill Farms, Clinton, Ky.
2014 National – David Ausberger, Ausberger Farms, Jefferson, Iowa
2013 Midwest Region – Gail Fuller, Fuller Farms, Emporia, Kan.
2013 Northeast Region – Roger Wenning, Wenning Farms, Greensburg, Ind.
2013 South Region – Jeremy Jack, Silent Shade Planting Company, Belzoni, Miss.
2013 National – Gail Fuller, Fuller Farms, Emporia, Kan.
2012 Midwest Region – Ryan Speer, Jacob Farms, Sedgwick, Kan.
2012 Northeast Region – Rodney Rulon, Rulon Enterprises, Arcadia, Ind.
2012 South Region – E. Cullen Bryant, Bryant Farms, Dillon, S.C.
2012 National – Rodney Rulon, Rulon Enterprises, Arcadia, Ind.
2011 Midwest Region – Ed Ulch, Ulch Farms, Solon, Iowa
2011 Northeast Region – Henry Kallal, Kallal Farms, Jerseyville, Ill.
2011 South Region – Richard Jameson, Jameson Farms, Brownsville, Tenn.
2011 National – Ed Ulch, Ulch Farms, Solon, Iowa
2010 Midwest Region – Josh Lloyd, Lloyd Farms, Clay Center, Kan.
2010 Northeast Region – H. Grant Troop, Troop Farms, Oxford, Penn.
2010 South Region – Malcolm Oats, Four Mile Farm, Hopkinsville, Ky.
2010 National – Josh Lloyd, Lloyd Farms, Clay Center, Kan.
2009 Midwest Region – Dean & Mike Coleman, Coleman Farms, Humboldt, Iowa
2009 Northeast Region – John Buck, Buck Farms, New Bloomington, Ohio
2009 South Region – Phillip & Rick Castlen, Castlen Brothers Farms, Owensboro, Ky.
2009 National – John Buck, Buck Farms, New Bloomington, Ohio
Changed from four regions to three regions
2008 Midwest Region – Wayne Corse, Swampeast Acres, Charleston, Mo.
2008 Northeast Region – Jim & Jaime Scott, J A Scott Farms Inc, Pierceton, Ind.
2008 South Region – J. C. Rountree, Rountree Farms, South Mills, N.C.
2008 West Region – Kevin Compton, Compton Farms, Hiawatha, Kan.
2008 National – Jim, Cathy & Jaime Scott, J.A. Scott Farms Inc, Pierceton, Ind.
2007 Midwest Region – James Andrew, Andrew Farms Inc, Jefferson, Iowa
2007 Northeast Region – Sam Hancock, Hancock Family Farms, Fulton, Ky.
2007 South Region – Thomas E. Lee, T.S. Lee & Sons Inc, Alcolu, S.C.
2007 West Region – Eugene Swearingen, Bryn Pleasant Farms, Hiawatha, Kan.
2007 National – James Andrew, Andrew Farms Inc, Jefferson, Iowa
2006 Midwest Region – Lawrence Sukalski, Fairmont, Minn.
2006 Northeast Region – Richard Kohlhagen, Kohlhagen Farms, Rensselaer, Ind.
2006 South Region – Steve Gamble, Steve Gamble & Sons Farm, Sardinia, S.C.
2006 West Region – Keith Thompson, Thompson Farms, Osage City, Kan.
2006 National – Lawrence Sukalski, Fairmont, Minn.
2005 Midwest Region – Alan Madison, Walnut, Ill.
2005 Northeast Region – William Lee Miller, Conservation Acres Farm, Terre Haute, Ind.
2005 South Region – Joe Derrick, Derrick Farms, Johnston, S.C.
2005 West Region – Kent Romine, Kent Romine Farms, Great Bend, Kan.
2005 National – William Lee Miller, Conservation Acres Farm, Terre Haute, Ind.
2004 Midwest Region – Mark Jackson, Jackson Farms, Rose Hill, Iowa
2004 Northeast Region – David & Stanley Hula, Renwood Farms, Charles City, Va.
2004 South Region – Darryl Corriher, C & H Grain LLC, China Grove, N.C.
2004 West Region – Philip and Dwight Lohrenz, Burrton, Kan.
2004 National – Mark Jackson, Jackson Farms, Rose Hill, Iowa
2003 Midwest Region – Delbert Price, Alexis, Ill.
2003 Northeast Region – Jan Layman, Layman Farms, Kenton, Ohio
2003 South Region – Earl Brown Hendrix, Hendrix Farms, Raeford, N.C.
2003 West Region – Harold Kraus, K.U. Farms, Hays, Kansas
2003 National – Delbert Price, Alexis, Ill.
2002 Midwest Region – Sandy Ludeman, SanMarBo Farms Inc, Tracy, Minn.
2002 Northeast Region – Mark Watkins, Watkins Farm, Kenton, Ohio
2002 South Region – Marc Curtis, Heads Planting Co., Leland, Miss.
2002 West Region – Jerry Newsham, Cedar Ridge Farms, Ashland, Neb.
2002 National – Sandy Ludeman, SanMarBo Farms Inc, Tracy, Minn.