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About the Award
Did you know that 53% of Iowa’s farmland is owned by non-operator landowners? This number is poised to increase as Iowa’s farmland undergoes a massive generational transfer.
Land owned by non-operators can present significant risks: Land tenure insecurity for tenants often decreases tenant interest in investing in conservation. Decision-making processes to make change production and conservation practices are more layered. Landlords often don’t see day-to-day management, thus are less knowledgeable and empowered to advocate for systems they believe in.
However, non-operator landowners also provide great opportunity for the future of Iowa farmland. That is why Practical Farmers started honoring landowners with the farmland legacy award in 2013.
Practical Farmers created the award to call attention to the vital role non-operator landowners play in shaping the agricultural landscape, rural communities and opportunities for beginning farmers. This award highlights people who use their role in land ownership to help create an agriculture that is in line with their values and goals. By sharing these success stories, we hope to empower other landowners to do the same.
Maggie and Steve, this year’s recipients
Maggie McQuown and Steve Turman are dedicated farmland owners very worthy of this award! This press release highlights their many major accomplishments, along with their goals for Resilient Farms, the farm Maggie grew up on and moved back to in 2011.
Award Ceremony recap
Fifty-five family members, friends and fellow PFI members came together to honor Steve and Maggie at their award reception July 31 in Red Oak.
The evening kicked of with lifetime members Jon and Tina Bakehouse providing a heartfelt overview of the influence Practical Farmers has had on their lives. Jon talked about how Practical Farmers helps farmers persevere and problem solve through on-farm research. Tina talked about how Practical Farmers is open to new ideas, is always willing to learn, and helps others learn while connecting people together.
Next, Rick Cruse, Iowa Water Center Director and Iowa State University Professor of Agronomy provided an overview of soil regeneration. He asked: Is regenerating soil a fight worth fighting? His reply: Absolutely. He then asked? Is it a fight we can win? His reply: Maybe, with better soil stewardship practices to reduce erosion and increase organic matter. Rick then ended the presentation with a bang-up performance of a song he wrote: “You got to know when to sow them.” I couldn’t find evidence of this song on YouTube, but he does perform, “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be ploughboys” at the end of his recent TedX talk.
Then, Lisa Schulte Moore, PFI board member and Iowa State University professor in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, presented Steve and Maggie with their award. Here is an excerpt from her talk:
The 5 reasons why
“Last March, Board President Mark Peterson nominated Maggie and Steve based on his knowledge of their commitment to conservation and thoughtful approach to farm decision-making. Several other members on the board also have experience with Maggie and Steve – me through the STRIPS project, others through the PFI annual meetings, the field day they hosted last year, and so on – we all quickly chimed in to support. While many candidate names were put forward, we kept coming back to Maggie and Steve. The PFI board selected Maggie and Steve for this year’s award through a process of consensus. Here are the five reasons why.
- They face up to challenges.
For example, in PFI’s write up about the award, Maggie states she and Steve are concerned about the ramifications of our dependency on fossil fuels. They are also clearly concerned about our failure to invest in Iowa’s rural communities and small towns. While most people would simply stop at concern, not Maggie and Steve! They are motivated to do something about these societal problems.
- They have a vision for a better future.
And it’s beautiful…and it starts with their farm. Their goals for Resilient Farms include expanding their fruit and vegetable production, integrating livestock, increasing their energy efficiency, restoring the historic buildings, and turning the farm into an educational hub for the community. Wow, what a cool thing that would be for Red Oak. I can’t wait to bring my Iowa State University students over here to experience it and learn.
- They do their research.
Maggie says that especially Steve is a voracious reader. They both attend meetings and field days, and they talk to people. When they do something, they have a well-grounded plan in place that pays attention to the ecological, social, and economic aspects of the farm – now that’s sustainability. I should have you come and teach my students how to do that.
- They have courage.
Change is hard. And preparing for change is even harder, so a lot of people just avoid it. Not Maggie and Steve. They make the leaps that many people find so difficult. Whether it be as one of the first adopters of a new conservation practice, prairie strips. Or if it is initiating that hard conversation between farmland owner and farmer about what’s best for right now might not be best in the long-term. It’s my opinion, that if we’re going to heal our state, reconnect the rural and the urban, save our soil for future generations of farmers, and clean our water for all to enjoy, we need a lot more of their kind of courage.
- They are willing to share.
Finally, one thing the board especially wants to recognize is their willingness to share their awesome story. Maggie and Steve don’t just do good on their farm, they inspire others to also make their farm, their community, Iowa, the world a better place. And Maggie is just so vivacious! You are such a great ambassador for the principles we stand for. We thank you for that.”
Community appreciation for Steve and Maggie
After Lisa shared her five reasons, audience members stepped up to share things they appreciate about Steve and Maggie. Their comments made it apparent Red Oak is glad to have Maggie back, and that Red Oak is a better place as a result of Steve and Maggie’s hard work.
In Maggie’s acceptance comments, she shared, “A healthy environment is critical for our future. We’re trying to do all the tiny things in our little part of the world to make our environment healthy.”
Any good celebration includes food, and this one delivered indeed. Thanks to Steve, Maggie and the Red Coach Inn for working to procure ingredients for a delicious local summer dinner. And thank you all who came and celebrated this wonderful couple. Steve and Maggie are shining lights among the 53%, and can serve as beacons for other landowners!