Area farmers recognized as Iowa Environmental Farm Leaders

Steven and Ferron Anderson and family pose after receiving the Farm Environmental Leader award Wednesday from Gov. Kim Reynolds (right), and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and Department of Natural Resources Director Kayla Lyon (left).

DES MOINES – Two long-time Central Iowa farm families were recognized as Iowa Environmental Farm Leaders during a ceremony Wednesday at the Iowa State Fair.

The recipients were SR Anderson Farms (Steven and Ferron Anderson and family) who farm in Grundy and Marshall counties and Jeffery, Barbara, Richard and Rosalene Heil and families who farm in Marshall County near Haverhill.

The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award is a joint effort of the governor, lieutenant governor, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Department of Natural Resources to recognize the exemplary voluntary efforts of Iowa’s farmers as environmental leaders committed to healthy soils and improved water quality.

It recognizes those that have taken steps in their farming operations that improve or protect the environment and natural resources of Iowa while also serving as local leaders to encourage other farmers to follow in their footsteps by building success upon success.

As environmental leaders, these farmers have adopted best management practices and incorporated environmental stewardship throughout their farming operations. True stewards of the land, they recognize improved water quality and soil sustainability reaps benefits that extend beyond their fields to reach the residents of Iowa and beyond, and have made stewardship a priority.

From left, Jeff, Barbara, Rosalene and Richard Heil pose after receiving the Iowa Environmental Farm leader award Wednesday at Iowa State Fair.

Steven Anderson of SR Anderson Farms in Grundy and Marshall counties is a fifth generation farmer who plants 3,500 acres; 1,000 acres of seed corn and 2,500 acres in corn/soy rotation. His conservation practices include cover crops on all seed corn acres and some commercial acres; Adding acres of cover crops year over year; No-till soybeans and strip-till corn and split rate nitrogen application.

Anderson plants cover crops on all of his seed corn acres, and is adding more cover crops to his commercial acres every year. He has noticed major improvements in his operation with reduced tillage and cover crops, and is working to preserve the soil and environment for his sons and future generations. He participates in the Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crop Initiative, has hosted field days, and is active in the Grundy County Farm Bureau.

Jeffrey and Barbara Heil, and Richard and Rosalene Heil have a Century Farm with 800 acres of corn, soybeans and CRP. Their combined 40 years of conservation tillage methods include no-till and strip-till; Installation of grassed waterways; adding cover crops to all corn acres in 2019; Nutrient management practices in place to minimize fertilizer loss.

Jeff’s leadership includes many years of services to local communities as financial advisor and years of missionary work world-wide. He has been motivated by stewardship and sense of duty to preserve resources for future generations.

“Dad always taught me conservation practices and I have kept doing it throughout the years,” Jeff said. “We started doing no-till in the 70s when no one else was doing it and took a risk — that has really paid off.”

Richard Heil stated farming some 80-plus years ago, and Jeff has been involved for more than 45 years.

“Doing what we do and getting this award is all by the grace of God,” Richard said.

Since its inception in 2012, 600 Iowa families have received the environmental farmer award.

Fifty-three families were honored this year.

In her remarks, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the awards are a testament to the many partnerships that go into to the protection of Iowa water quality.

“Protecting water is not just a one-time thing – but rather a way of life,” she said.