The American Soybean Association this week named three regional winners for its 2015 Conservation Legacy Awards, a program that recognizes environmental and conservation achievements of U.S. soybean farmers.
Steve Berger, Wellman, Iowa (Midwest Region); Mike Starkey, Brownsburg, Ind. (Northeast Region); and Jimmy Thomas, Timberlake, N.C. (South Region) are the three winners.
Each winner will be recognized at the ASA Awards Banquet, Feb. 27, 2015, at Commodity Classic in Phoenix, Ariz., where one of them will be chosen as the national winner.
A national selection committee, composed of soybean farmers, conservationists and natural resource professionals, evaluated nominations based on each farmer's environmental and economic program.
Along with ASA, the program is co-sponsored by BASF, Monsanto, Corn & Soybean Digest magazine and the United Soybean Board/Checkoff.
Steve Berger, Wellman, Iowa
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 of swine. The Bergers introduced no-till nearly 40 years ago and cover crops in the last 15.
"It is important to have the farmer teaching, learning and working with cover crops in modern-day systems," Berger said. "It is challenging in today's farming environment to blend economics and esthetics, but is very rewarding."
Mike Starkey, Brownsburg, Ind.
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.
Jimmy Thomas, Timberlake, N.C.
Thomas Family Farms Inc. is a traditional, diverse North Carolina operation incorporating corn, soybeans and wheat, tobacco and swine production. There are now three generations working together at Thomas Family Farms.
Thomas said the family incorporated a range of conservation practices into the entire operation. As they picked up new land through purchases or leases, the Thomas family implemented no-till practices on the new farms were the farmer had previously practiced conventional tillage.
"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. "We are providing for ourselves and making good conservation choices, and we are educating our employees and family members to continue to seek improvements and utilize new technologies for conservation and stewardship."
Individual videos for each of the regional ASA 2015 Conservation Legacy Awards can be found on the ASA website.