Britt Farms of Clifton Hill, Mo., has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award. This award, named after renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private land.

In Missouri, this award is presented annually by Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust, the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Ryan Britt and family were announced as the award recipient during the Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Annual Training Conference in Osage Beach on November 28. For their recognition, the Britts received a check for $10,000 and a crystal award.

“Britt Farms is a true success story of conservation implementation across multiple generations and they are eager to adopt and share new conservation technologies,” says Scott Edwards, NRCS Missouri state conservationist. “Ryan Britt’s commitment to conservation extends beyond his own farm with his willingness to promote voluntary conservation and environmental stewardship both at the local and national level with the Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.”

Britt Farms Inc. is a family farm consisting of approximately 5,000 acres of row crops, hay and beef cattle production. Ryan is a fifth-generation farmer who, with his father, brother-in-law and the support of their families, produces corn, soybeans, wheat, hay and cattle through practices that incorporate the use of technology and innovative partnerships to maximize efficiency and sustainability.

“Congratulations to Britt Farms on receiving the prestigious 2022 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award,” says Missouri Corn Merchandising Council Chairman Brent Hoerr. “Incorporating the latest technology to maximize soil health and the surrounding ecosystems, ultimately growing more with less, requires focus and discipline. The story of today’s true conservation spirit exemplified by the Britt family needs to be shared with audiences far and wide to inspire broader goals for future generations.”

Ryan’s fascination with technology’s role in agricultural conservation stems from watching his father make adjustments to their equipment that better evaluated their land. After coming home from the University of Missouri in 2000, Ryan was well-equipped with the knowledge of how technology can maximize efficiency while protecting water and soil. His first conservation adoptions included grid-based soil testing and variable rate fertilizer applications.

The Britts rapidly adopted conservation techniques. Britt Farms transitioned to a completely no-till system, incorporated crop rotations and cover crops to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health, and added a rotational grazing system for their beef cattle, which allowed for reduction of soil erosion and protected water quality in the nearby Thomas Hill Reservoir. The family built a covered feeding area with a deep pack barn designed for zero runoff to minimize nutrient loss and optimize cattle health, built terraces and grassed waterways, and created a wetland area for wildlife preservation.

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Britt family,” says John Piotti, AFT president and chief executive officer. “At AFT, we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

Earlier this year, Missouri landowners were encouraged to apply, or be nominated, for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. Among the many outstanding Missouri farmers nominated for the award were finalists Rick Aufdenberg of Jackson in Cape Girardeau County, Cope Grass Farms of Truxton in Lincoln County and Stanton Farms of Centralia in Boone County.  

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