The award was initially announced Oct. 26 during a meeting of the state Natural Resources Board. The Koepke family, from Oconomowoc, then received the $10,000 award and a Leopold crystal Dec. 4 at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells.
“The Koepkes have made conservation a family tradition,” said Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation President. “From their soil and water management techniques to their community outreach efforts, they are a prime example of the innovative, dedicated and determined farm families that can be found across Wisconsin.”
Koepke Farms Inc. is a partnership between brothers Alan, David, Jim, and Jim’s son John. Together, they milk 320 cows and operate 1,000 acres of cropland plus another 150 acres of woods and wetlands.
As one of the first farms in their area to adopt a completely no-till system, the family has incorporated grassed waterways, contour strip cropping, diversified crop rotation, nutrient management, cover crops and barnyard runoff control into their farming practices.
Research conducted on the farm by the University of Wisconsin Discovery Farms Program from 2005 to 2008 resulted in the Koepkes making the decision to build a manure storage structure.
They have altered the dairy herd’s feed rations so that the manure does not contain excessive levels of phosphorus, without impacting milk production. As proof, a Holstein named “Granny” from the farm holds the world record for lifetime milk production.
The Koepkes are members of the Waukesha County Farm Bureau and were also named the Dairymen of the Year at last month’s World Dairy Expo in Madison.
They were one of four finalists for the Leopold Conservation Award.
“The diversity of these agricultural operations is remarkable, yet they all share a commitment to enhancement of Wisconsin’s natural resources,” Haglund said. “These finalists are examples of the determination, innovation and dedication that characterize agricultural families across Wisconsin.”
The other finalists included Jim and Valerie Hebbe of Green Lake County, Justin and Lynn Isherwood of Portage County, and Mark Riechers of Lafayette County. Each received $500 for their conservation efforts.
The first recipient of the Leopold Conservation Award under the Sand County Foundation and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation partnership was the Bragger family from Independence in Buffalo County.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Wisconsin is made possible through the generous support of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, American Transmission Company (ATC), Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Rural Mutual Insurance Company and Farm Credit. In 2011, Sand County Foundation will also present Leopold Conservation Awards in California, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
For more information, see www.leopoldconservationaward.org