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Honoring Responsible Farmland Owners

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June 24, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - Many Iowa farmers don't own the property they farm, but rent it. The actual owner may live nearby or may live out of state, but the owner has the final say in shaping the agricultural landscape. Practical Farmers of Iowa has decided to recognize responsible non-operator landowners who are promoting environmental quality, soil productivity, the long-term sustainability of farm businesses, and the viability of rural communities.

The first recipient of the "Farmland Owner Award" is Helen Gunderson of Ames, who owns 500 acres near Rolfe, who said she's committed to putting acres into the Conservation Reserve Program.

"I chose to buy prairie seed, and so that is a full diverse mix of seed that makes the C.R.P. almost like a restored prairie," she declared.

In 2009, Gunderson did something radical by renting farmland to a woman, Betsy Dahl.

"I had been thinking for some time how can I make a difference, so I think about having a young woman farm 180 acres of mine and transition it to organic," she said.

This year's award is co-sponsored by the Women, Food and Agriculture Network and the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University.

Richard Alan, Public News Service - IA