Johnson Farms win the Leopold Conservation Award with no-till farming practices


FRANKFORT, S.D. (KELO) — The Leopold Conservation Award is given to landowners who inspire others with their dedication to the land, water, and wildlife resources in their care. The award is given out every year nationwide.

On tonight’s Eye on KELOLAND, Whitney Fowkes introduces you to the 2019 award winners who farm near Frankfort, South Dakota.

“Its so nice to be out here in the wide open,” Alan Johnson said.

Alan Johnson can’t imagine doing anything else.

“I look forward to spring when the calves are born and getting out in the field and planting and then the fall harvest —,” Alan Johnson said.

“I just love it. That’s just it. Something that just gets into your system and I’m glad I decided to do it,” Johnson said.

Johnson Farms started over a century ago in Spink County.  It’s been in the family ever since. 

“My grandfather came here in 1906 on this farm, so it went from my grandfather, to my dad, to me, to my son,” Johnson said.

Over the years, farming has changed. In addition to raising cattle, the family now has 1,800 acres of cropland and 500 acres of grassland. 

“In the spring of 86 I started no-till and I no tilled every acre of corn into wheat stubble and since then we haven’t turned back. Had some little variations, with corn on corn, and equipment changes, and the way things are right now, with the equipment we use, its a perfect fit for us,” Johnson said.

No-till farming plants the seeds in the remains of previous crops without working the ground first. 

“We’re always making subtle adjustments in what we do with the cattle operation and the crop so it’ll be to a worth while cause,” Brian Johnson said.

Which is one of the reasons this family won the Leopold Conservation Award.

“It was quite an honor to even be with a group of finalists and the previous winners we were very humbled. There’s some fantastic operations across South Dakota and to be considered in that group is mind blowing,” Brian Johnson said.

The Johnsons know improvements are always possible. 

So, Brian and Jamie continue to increase their conservation efforts every year.

“One of our focuses in the last couple years is trying to integrate the livestock back on to the crop ground and using them to help the soil,” Jamie Johnson said.

“We have them graze on the crop ground on those cover crops at the end of the season and those corn stalks at the end of the year too, it really has helped our operation be more profitable because its a cheap source of feed, but its also good for the soil,” Brian Johnson said.

The Johnson Farms won $10,000 through the Leopold Award

“It’s going to be reinvested in the farm. You know, just some changes we’re going to be making for our grazing systems and when you make money on the farm you usually reinvest it and that’s our plan,” Brian Johnson said.

But the Johnsons say they’re just doing their best.

“And to be honored with this, it is its very humbling. because we know lots of people that are doing the right things. And every single farm is different, every single acre of land is different and it needs to be treated so,” Jamie Johnson said.

To learn more about the Leopold Award, click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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