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Published on 02/22/2019

The Farmer Advocates: Honoring Ray McCormick and Chad & Donise Altenhofen

Farmers wear many hats. From agronomist to meteorologist to accountant to mechanic, the list goes on and on, and it changes daily. Farmers are also called upon to shoulder an additional role – that of chief storyteller, not only for their own farms, but often to advocate for all of agriculture.

At the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN Partners In Excellence Summit earlier this month, we presented the Advocacy Award to three outstanding farmer storytellers and members of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN.
Award winner Ray McCormick of Ray McCormick/McCormick Farms farms in Vincennes, Indiana, while Chad and Donise Altenhofen of Altenhofen Farms in Chariton, Iowa received the honorable mention.

Both Ray and the Altenhofen family are local leaders, building confidence in sustainable agriculture by sharing their stories, supporting legislative efforts that incentivize farmer-owned and -driven conservation, and partnering with Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN to support continuous improvement.

Ray McCormick: Sustainable “Before It was Cool”

When she nominated Ray McCormick for the Advocacy Award, Ceres Solutions agronomist Betsy Bower said that Ray was advocating for sustainable cropping systems and using them on his farm “before it was cool.” We happen to think that’s pretty cool, too.
 
Ray has operated his family farm since the late 1980s, which is also when he first became involved with wetland restoration programs. Ray has restored 130 acres of wetlands, and flooded several hundred more to attract migratory birds. He also uses no-till and plants cover crops on his farm to reduce erosion and build soil health. He has even invented his own approach to seeding cover crops.

A lifelong conservationist and supporter of agriculture, Ray has been a public servant as well as a farmer.
Ray has 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.

The Altenhofen Family: Always Advocating

Chad and Donise Altenhofen of Altenhofen Farms in Chariton, Iowa, have been active leaders in the Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN South Central Coop Platform since day one.
 
Chad and Donise grow corn, soybeans, alfalfa and pasture, along with a 500-head cow/calf operation and a backgrounding feedlot of 700-head. On the farm, they practice rotational grazing, use control basins for manure, and have a mono-slope building for backgrounding calves. They also plant cover crops, and have several thousand feet of terraces and waterways.
 
The Altenhofens were among the first to use the recently-launched Truterra Insights Engine on-farm digital platform, which is helping them further advance their stewardship efforts and track their progress.

When farmers like Ray McCormick and the Altenhofen family share their conservation stories, they have a ripple effect through their local communities and at the state level, inspiring other farmers and lawmakers alike to prioritize sustainability and stewardship. We are incredibly proud to honor them, but we know that they are just a few of the thousands of American farmers who advocate for a more sustainable food system every day.