Published on 12/10/2018

Award-Winning Farmers and Ag Retailers Drive Food System Sustainability

Farmers – the original conservationists – know that managing risk and taking the long-term view is what keeps them on their farms season after season. While every farmer and every farm is different, they know that an investment in environmental sustainability is also an investment in the sustainability of their business. 

At Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, we know that the best conservation and stewardship solutions are farmer-led and farmer-driven. This concept underpins everything that we do, from coordinating partnerships between farmers and ag retailers and food companies, to the suite of tools and products we offer under the Truterra brand.

That’s why we are so proud to lift up the work of a special group of inspiring farmers and agricultural retailers at this week’s Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Partners In Excellence Summit.

These farmers and ag retailers are balancing the conservation and profitability of their farms through innovation and a strong commitment to helping the environment. We were excited to honor their hard work.

And, what better day to celebrate them than on December 5, World Soil Day?

Representing operations from all over North America, these farmers and ag retailers are pioneering new practices and approaches to stewardship, promoting agriculture in their communities and engaging with elected officials – and through it all, showcasing dramatic improvements in air, soil and water quality they have achieved on their farms. 
For example, Southern Minnesota based retailer Central Farm Service (CFS) is the recipient of the 2018 Partners in Excellence Outstanding Ag Retailer Award for its collaboration with Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN to enroll over 160,000 acres into the Truterra Insights Engine tool. CFS is a key partner with Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on the Cedar River Watershed Partnership in Minnesota, an award-winning public-private partnership focused on connecting farmers with tools and resources to improve the soil, water and economic health of their operations and address water quality challenges in the region.
Also honored in this category was Ceres Solutions in Indiana, a Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN ag retailer for the past two years. Ceres was recognized for its involvement with the Big Pine watershed conservation project and partnership in our recently-announced collaboration to source sustainably-grown corn from the Midwest for global ingredient supplier Tate & Lyle
Rick Clark of Clark Land and Cattle in Williamsport, Indiana was honored with the Outstanding Sustainability Award for his on-farm conservation efforts. Over the past ten years, Rick has integrated several conservation agronomy and sustainable land practices on his farm to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He has reached nearly 100 percent no-till tillage and integration of cover crops on 6,000 acres spread across his own farm, plus land he manages for family members on two other operations.
Also honored were Brad and Cathy Reece of Chariton, Iowa. Brad and Cathy have been Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN growers for the past four years. They have used no-till since 1985, and have several thousand feet of terraces and waterways across their farm to minimize soil erosion.
Advocacy Award winner Ray McCormick of Ray McCormick Farms/McCormick Farms in Vincennes, Indiana was recognized for his work to educate his community about the broader impact of on-farm stewardship.
A lifelong conservationist and supporter of agriculture, Ray has been a public servant as well as a farmer. He advocated for sustainability as President of the Indiana Soil and Water Conservation Districts, as an Indiana Department of Natural Resources Commissioner, and is currently on the board of directors for the Indiana Wildlife Foundation.

Also honored in this category were Chad and Donise Altenhofen of Altenhofen Farms in Chariton, Iowa. Chad and Donise have been active leaders in the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN South Central Coop Platform since its inception.
The trailblazing farmer honored with this year’s Innovation Award is Ian Coutts of Coutts Agro in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. Farming 92,000 acres they were founding users of First Pass Technologies, a software to pre-plan field routes, Ian has eliminated 5-7 percent of total miles traveled, reducing GHG emissions, fertilizer use and the amount of soil turned up during seeding.   
Also honored in this category was Chris and Becky Atten of Hillwood Wis LLC in Cuba City, Wisconsin. Chris and Becky combine tried and true practices like crop rotation, no till and cover crops with innovative new technology to reduce the environmental impact of his farm.   

As a farmer-owned cooperative, Land O’Lakes knows that the work of these farmers and ag retailers is crucial for protecting the planet. Their efforts have a ripple effect across the entire food system – from the land they farm, to the companies they supply ingredients to, to the consumers who ultimately buy their products.

We are incredibly proud to tell the stories of these farmers and ag retailers, but we know that these awards honor just a few of the thousands of American farmers and ag retailers who are implementing cutting edge conservation practices to support cleaner air and water, better soil health, stronger rural and farm economies, and ultimately, a healthy, sustainable food system for everyone.