SD Grassland Coalition

South Dakota Grassland Coalition Blog


Governor Kristi Noem Announces Leopold Conservation Award Winner

April 22, 2019
Noem Contact: Kristin Wileman
SD Cattlemen Contact: Jodie Anderson
SD Grassland Coalition Contact: Jim Faulstich
Sand County Foundation Contact: Casey Langan


Noem Announces Leopold Conservation Award Winner

Award recognizes landowners for outstanding stewardship

PIERRE, S.D. –  In conjunction with Earth Day, Governor Kristi Noem today announced that Johnson Farms of Frankfort has been selected for the 2019 South Dakota Leopold Conservation Award.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist, Aldo Leopold, this award recognizes private landowners who inspire others with their dedication to the land, water, and wildlife resources in their care.

In South Dakota, the award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and the South Dakota Grassland Coalition. Johnson Farms will be presented with the $10,000 award, and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold at the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s Annual Convention in December.

“Farmers and ranchers across South Dakota know how to balance agriculture production with conservation,” said Noem. “The intentional innovation, stewardship, and land ethic of the Johnsons and other producers ensures that our natural resources will be available for future generations.”

“The Johnsons are demonstrating how crops and cattle can work together to support their multiple-generation family farm while improving their natural resources and the bottom line,” said Steve Ollerich, president of South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. “We congratulate them as our 2019 Leopold Conservation Award recipients and applaud their conservation ethic.”

“The Johnson’s focus on conservation, while managing multiple enterprises on their family farm, is commendable and we congratulate them on receiving the 2019 South Dakota Conservation Award,” said Jim Faulstitch, chairman of the South Dakota Grassland Coalition. “We look forward to continuing to highlight their conservation story throughout the year.”

“Leopold Conservation Award recipients are at the forefront of a movement by America’s farmers and ranchers to simultaneously achieve economic and environmental success,” said Kevin McAleese, president and CEO of Sand County Foundation.

Finalists for the award included Bien Ranch of Veblen in Marshall County, Blair Brothers Angus Ranch of Vale in Butte County, and Hefner Ranch of Whitewood in Lawrence County.

Award applicants were judged based on their demonstration of improved resource conditions, innovation, long-term commitment to stewardship, sustained economic viability, community and civic leadership, and multiple use benefits.

About the winner:

Alan and Mickie Johnson, with their son Brian and his wife Jamie, farm 1,800 acres of cropland and 500 acres of grassland in Spink County. Agricultural conservation practices and raising cattle make the Johnsons more efficient without buying more land.

The farm’s roots trace back to 160 acres that Johnson’s Swedish immigrant grandfather homesteaded more than a century ago. The Johnsons use a mix of old school practices and modern technology to leave the land in better shape for the next generation.

Alan Johnson adopted no-till farming practices in 1986 when abandoning the plow, disk and cultivator was much against the norm. Despite what the neighbors thought, Alan saw that tilling a field to rid it of weeds was also depleting it of moisture. By mid-summer, if rain was scarce, crops suffered.

By coupling no-till practices with cover crops, the Johnsons have improved water infiltration and soil health, increasing productivity.

The Johnsons also find that a diverse rotation of their corn, soybean, wheat, oat, and barley crops, and leaving crop residue in place, minimizes agricultural runoff, naturally eases pest management, and provides wildlife habitat. To further address soil erosion and salinity problems, the Johnsons enrolled land in the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program.

Realizing that different areas of each field have varying productivity, the Johnsons switched to a variable-rate fertilizer system in 2004. Applying the precise amount of nutrients on the soil saves time and natural resources, and delivers a better return on investment. Since the switch, the Johnsons have won a yield contest held by the South Dakota Soybean Association.

The Johnsons also raise a herd of Angus beef cattle. Whenever possible, the herd is allowed to graze on mature cover crops and corn stubble, creating a cooperative relationship between the cattle and the land. The cover crops provide feed, and the cattle naturally fertilize the soil with their waste.

Grazing used to mean turning the cattle out to pasture for the summer and bringing them home in the fall. It was easy, but it took a toll on the quality and variety of the grass. The Johnsons now rotationally graze their cattle and closely monitor grazing conditions and the timing of their calving season.

While the longtime crop farmers admit that managing grass and cattle requires additional time, the results are healthier land and a stronger bottom line.

For more information on the award, visit


Our Amazing Grasslands ~ Schmidt Family

“We are grazers. We are grass managers. We are used solar salesmen. We use sunlight and rain and grass, that’s what makes our living.”
-Stuart Schmidt


Check out April’s Our Amazing Grasslands Producers!

Upcoming Holistic Management Roadshow

Upcoming Holistic Management Roadshow

Are you looking for ways to increase your profitability? Are you curious about Holistic Management? Have you been wondering how to implement small steps on your farm or ranch?
Come to our 2019 Holistic Management Roadshow! We have locations across South Dakota from January 7th through the 11th. Each event features Roland Kroos and Patrick Toomey with Crossroads Ranch Consulting.
Roland Kroos has been helping farmers and ranchers practice holistic management for over forty years. He was born on a farm outside of Grand Island, NE. He started working for the Natural Resource Conservation Service after graduating from Nebraska-Lincoln. Roland helped with the recovery effort of the Mount St Helen’s eruption. It was there he met and was educated by, Dr. Allan Savory. After learning about Holistic Management, he implemented it in various operations across Nebraska. Roland made the jump from NRCS to work with Savory at Holistic Management International. From there, he ventured out on his own, creating Crossroads Ranch Consulting, which focuses on the northern Plains. Over the last 30 years at CRC, Roland has helped and educated hundreds of ranches in managing their land holistically.
Patrick Toomey is a Holistic Management Consultant working for Crossroads Ranch Consulting. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Patrick began working in the oil and gas fields as a reclamation specialist. However, once oil took a downward turn, he decided to change the focus of his career. He began working as the Technical Services Provider for the InterTribal Buffalo Council. Here, Patrick helped manage over 50 buffalo herds across the country and was also introduced to Holistic Management. Through various networks, Patrick discovered Crossroads and began working with Roland in July 2018.
This event is free to South Dakota Grassland Coalition members. If you are not a member, the cost is $30, which includes a one-year membership to the SDGC. The flyer featured above has the contact information for each location. If you need special accommodations, please contact Judge Jessop at or at (605) 280-0127.

2019 Holistic Management Roadshow

Our Amazing Grasslands- Tracy Rosenberg

“Grasslands are not the poor land, it’s not the wasteland, this is an ecosystem that is by
far the most important ecosystem we have in North America and
yet it is disappearing at extraordinary rates.”
-Tracy Rosenberg

In our final video release of 2018, Tracy Rosenberg explains the importance of grassland ecosystems and the steps she is taking to preserve and enhance the Abbey Grasslands of the Prairie Coteau. Tracy embodies the spirit of conservation and encourages all of us to recognize the value of grasslands.

The SD Grassland Coalition partnered with the organizations listed below to enhance the grassland planner with a release of a short video story each month during 2018 promoting healthy soils, grasslands, and ecosystems. Please enjoy the Our Amazing Grasslands feature story for December 2018 featuring Tracy Rosenberg.

2018 Grassland Stewardship Communications Project Partners: The Nature ConservancyPheasants ForeverAmerican Bird Conservancy, World Wildlife FundAudubon Dakota, Ducks Unlimited, Partners for Fish Health, SD Game Fish & Parks, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and SD Grassland Coalition.

Join SDGC!

Become a member of the SD Grassland Coalition
Click here

Donate to SDGC!

Help SDGC achieve its goal of conserving healthy grasslands.
Click here

Contact SDGC

SD Grassland Coalition
221 N. Main
Box 401
Presho, SD 57568

Pin It on Pinterest