The Brooks Farms in Waupaca County is this year's recipient of the Wisconsin’s Leopold Conservation Award from the Sand County Foundation.
Brooks Farms is a 1,600-acre, vertically integrated dairy and crop farm in Waupaca owned and managed by Ron Brooks and his daughters Zoey, Syndey, Alyssa and Kelsey. The dairy is currently undergoing a significant expansion, from 250 cows to 650, with plans to expand more in the future. Their herd expansion will allow them to take advantage of economy of scale, giving them the ability to invest in manure separation and a wastewater treatment plant.
Depending on the year and weather conditions, 70 to 80 percent of their cropland is no-till. The cropland undergoes a 10-year crop rotation between oats, alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat. Throughout the 10-year rotation, the fields are only tilled twice with heavy consideration of slope and erosion potential. Earthworms thrive in their reduced tillage fields, indicating a healthy soil biosphere and creating channels to allow for the infiltration of water.
The Leopold Conservation Award in Wisconsin is made possible through the generous support of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Badgerland Financial, Alliant Energy Foundation, American Transmission Company, USDA NRCS and Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. It inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”