After being named the Conservation Farmer of the Year, Dave Lubben of Monticello got a visit from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig Sept. 15.
The conservation award is sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. As this year’s statewide winner, Lubben will receive free use of a John Deere 6E Series utility tractor for up to 12 months or 200 hours of use.
Lubben was nominated for the award by a beef specialist from Iowa State University, and when he went into the local extension office to fill out some paperwork, he thought he was just in the running for a local award. So, when the call came down that he was the statewide winner, he was shocked.
“It’s kind of a fun award. I didn’t expect it,” he said. “I’m not doing anything different than everybody else. Everybody tries to do some conservation work.”
Highlighting the conservation work being done by farmers like Lubben is important at the state level.
“The best ambassadors for conservation are the landowners and farmers that are doing the work,” he said. “I think that’s very powerful.”
Lubben took Naig on a tour of various conservation efforts around his farm. During the course of it, Lubben showcased the feedlot for his cattle, showed the pastures and grazing areas for the cattle and explained how those are rotated, showed where he’s planted five different types of trees in areas that weren’t being used for part of the farming operation, discussed how he acclimates his cattle to alfalfa grazing and how limiting access to the creek has resulted in the stabilization of the stream base. Over the past decade, the farm has also seen some great results when it comes to utilizing winter rye as weed control for the soybean crop.
“You don’t do these things all at once, this is a commitment over time. You’re talking about years of work to focus on conservation and how to best use this land,” Naig said about what stood out to him. “I think that’s what really strikes me is you’ve got a cattle operation…rotational grazing that’s happening here, they understand what kind of soil types they’ve got, and then what’s the best and highest use for that land.”
While most of the practices have been going on for a number of years, the most recent conservation effort has a more sentimental reason to go along with the conservational benefits.
“My grandfather planted some trees on this place, and I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to do some, too,’” he said. “I planted them for my grandkids to give them some kind of a legacy. They can play in them and watch them grow, understand that’s part of the ecosystem.”
In addition to the conservation measures he’s implemented for his daily operations, tours like this are part of Lubben’s conservation legacy.
“They just want probably some moral support,” Lubben said of the kind of feedback he gets when he tours farms or talks to other farmers about strategies he’s implemented. “We’ll just kick some ideas around for them.”
Conservation methods don’t have to be overly complicated, and areas to focus on can usually be found if farmers are just attentive to what’s going on with their land. That is the best piece of advice Lubben can give.
“Mother Nature’s a great teacher if we’re willing to pay attention,” he said.