posted September 7, 2004: A Boone County farm
couple who have been pioneers in sustainable agriculture
were honored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
at the Iowa State Fair.
Richard and Sharon Thompson of Boone received the 2004
Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture in recognition
of their work in promoting the stability of family farms
The Thompsons operate a 300-acre diverse crop and livestock
farm, raising beef cattle and hogs. They farmed conventionally
for 10 years and in 1968 began to test alternative methods
to reduce their use of chemicals and antibiotics. In
1985 they were instrumental in founding Practical Farmers
of Iowa, a grassroots farmer organization that focuses
on practical research and on-farm demonstrations.
Since 1986, they have hosted more than 8,600 people
from 59 countries on their farm and have shared information
about their successful system throughout the United
States, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy and Australia.
They keep meticulous records and publish a 200-page
annual report with findings of their on-farm experiments.
"The Thompsons began looking for ways to use environmentally
sound farming practices that were profitable before
anyone began using the term sustainable agriculture,"
said Leopold Center director Fred Kirschenmann. "They
exemplify on-farm research, also done by the Spencers,
and have a strong connection to Iowa State University
and the land grant mission."
One of the state's largest awards in sustainable agriculture,
the Specer Award includes a $1,000 cash gift from the
family of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed
near Sioux City for 40 years.