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Published on 03/02/2020

Stories of Stewardship: Advocating for Sustainability in the Community and Beyond

Stewardship starts on the farm, but how does it benefit an entire community? Through the hard work of farmer-advocates like Matt Rezac in Weston, Nebraska and Fred Uhl in Harrison County, Indiana. At our 2019 Partners in Excellence Summit, we honored these two farmers with the Advocacy Award for not only exemplifying stewardship on their farms, but for working to share their #MyStewardshipStory and advocate for tools farmers need to drive climate solutions in their communities and beyond.

Matt Rezac was nominated by Frontier Cooperative, his local agricultural retailer. A fourth-generation farmer, Matt is part of a limited group of growers enrolled in Frontier’s Ultimate Acre System, which utilizes sound agronomic information to optimize productivity on every acre. He participates in panels in his community to discuss the impact stewardship practices have had on his farm.

On the Rezac family farm, some of the farmland has been in use for over 140 years, and Matt is committed to doing everything he can to preserve his land for generations to come. To that end, Matt has worked with local conservation resources, including his local District Conservationist and his local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, to tailor stewardship solutions to his farm. With these resources, Matt has been able to incorporate several conservation farming techniques that protect his farm’s air, soil, and water.

Matt extended his advocacy outside of his own community when he took the opportunity to speak at a U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on May 21, 2019 and share his experiences in sustainable agriculture as a Nebraska farmer. During this hearing focused on climate change, Matt talked about the central role that American farmers can play in driving stewardship. After testifying before the Senate, Matt wrote about farmer-led climate solutions and the tools and collaboration needed for farmers to keep improving in a local op-ed placed in the Lincoln Journal Star.

Honorable mention Fred Uhl has been incorporating conservation techniques in his family farm, which has existed for over ten generations, since transitioning from dairy to growing popcorn, corn and soybeans over 25 years ago.

Fred quickly incorporated no till as a way to boost efficiency and noticed it helped to boost soil health, reduce erosion and control moisture. After this success, he began using variable rate technology to ensure the ideal amount of seed and fertilizer was being added to his soil. Over the past eight years, this technique, as well as the utilization of cover crops, has helped Fred to optimize his crop production and increase soil health.

Drawing upon this experience, Fred has become an advocate in his community for the wide adoption of conservation techniques. He has served on the board of Premier Co-op, his local ag retailer, for over 26 years and is currently Chairman. During Premier’s visit to Washington, D.C., Fred spoke to Senators about on-farm stewardship. He even invited Representative Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) to farms in his area to showcase how different growers are succeeding in their conservation practices. In his local government, Fred serves on the Harrison County Extension Board, where he co-wrote the Farmland Ordinance for Harrison County.

When farmers like Matt Rezac and Fred Uhl tell their stewardship stories and advocate for the resources farmers need to continue to push forward on climate solutions, other farmers in their communities can learn more about conservation practices, and policymakers can better support farmers in this critical mission. Stewardship may start on the farm, but Matt and Fred’s stories show that farmers are not alone – the essence of stewardship rests on collaboration. Land O’ Lakes is proud to honor these individuals for their efforts, and to work alongside them in bringing stewardship efforts to more farms and protecting land and farm for years to come.