Shelby County Family Wins Spencer Award

Iowa's annual honor for sustainable agriculture goes to the Ron Rossmann family this year.

A Shelby County family whose commitment to small farms extends well beyond Iowa has been honored with the state's largest award for sustainable agriculture.

Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann, along with their sons David, Daniel and Mark, will receive the 2006 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture during the Iowa Organic Conference November 20 in Ames. The Rosmanns farm 600 acres, all certified organic, near Harlan.

The Spencer Award, administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, recognizes farmers, researchers and educators who have made a significant contribution toward the stability of mainstream family farms in Iowa. The award is named for Norman A. and Margaretha Spencer who farmed near Sioux City for 40 years and includes $1,000 from the Spencer family.

600-acre farm is certified organic

The Rosmanns raise corn and soybeans, most of which is marketed for use in organic food products, and oats, rye, barley, hay and flax. They rotationally graze a 90-head Red Angus cowherd, and have a 50-sow, deep-bedded, farrow-to-finish operation. The family has been recognized for their soil conservation practices; they maintain 40 acres of permanent headlands, grass waterways, terraces, buffer strips, as well as a 2.5-acre woodland they planted in 1993.

Ron Rosmann is a founding board member of the grassroots organization, Practical Farmers of Iowa, and is a former president and board member of the California-based Organic Farming Research Foundation. He also is a member of the Shelby County Extension Council and the Leopold Center's Grassland Agriculture advisory committee, and serves as treasurer of the newly-organized Iowa Organic Association.

Maria Vakulskas Rosmann operates the family's private label, direct market organic meat business, which they started in 1997. Their organic beef and pork is marketed to Organic Valley Family Farms and sold throughout the Midwest.

Family is active in agriculture policy

Daniel Rosmann, 23, a recent Iowa State University graduate in agronomy, has joined the family operation. David Rosmann, 25, also an ISU graduate, is a rural organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement in Des Moines. Mark Rosmann, 20, is a junior in agronomy and history at ISU.

Both Ron and Maria Rosmann have been active in agricultural policy circles, testifying five times before the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture committees, most recently in August for hearings on the 2007 Farm Bill. They have hosted more than 30 field days on their farm and have welcomed no less than 1,500 visitors from Australia, China, Japan, Lithuania, Argentina and Brazil.

The award presentation will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the Scheman Building at the ISU Center. The public is invited to attend, but must register for the conference if they want lunch. For more information about the conference, contact Haley Cook at (515) 294-0196, [email protected].  

The Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture has been presented since 2002. The Leopold Center's advisory board and past recipients select each year's honoree from submitted nominations.

TAGS: Soybean
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