A farm couple from Audubon County in western Iowa who have a diversified organic grain, hay and livestock operation have earned the 2010 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture. Vic and Cindy Madsen will receive the honor on Friday, January 7 during the annual conference of Practical Farmers of Iowa in Marshalltown.
The Spencer Award, administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, recognizes farmers, researchers and educators who have made a significant contribution toward the stability of family farms in Iowa. The award is named for Norman A. and Margaretha Spencer who farmed near Sioux City for 40 years; it includes $1,000 from the Spencer family.
The Madsens farm on 280 acres in west-central Iowa where they grow a variety of crops and raise hogs, cattle and broiler chickens. Cindy Madsen sells most of the chickens directly to customers at farmers markets and via e-mail orders; some of the hogs and cattle are direct-marketed as well. They had farmed since the 1970s, but gradually began to transition to organic production 11 years ago. Most of their farm has been certified organic since 2002, except for land that is steep and unmanageable for tillage.
A farming family known for soil and water conservation efforts
"We feel that organic is better for us and the land. It is a more personal way of farming," says Vic Madsen. "We need to leave soil in good shape, so our grandchildren will have good soil to farm with."
The Madsen's also were among the first Iowans whose farms were accepted in the USDA Conservation Security Program in 2002 at the Tier 3 highest level, with payments based on conservation practices. They have planted trees and rotate crops to control erosion, and use contour farming, field borders, grassed waterways and Conservation Reserve filter strips. To encourage wildlife, they defer haying or grazing until after the primary nesting season.
The Madsens are active members of Practical Farmers of Iowa, which nominated them for the award. They will be the ninth recipients of the Spencer Award. More information about the award is available online at www.leopold.iastate.edu/resources/spencer/spencer.htm