Iowa no-tiller Wayne Fredericks, known for conservation leadership in the soybean industry, died Feb. 7 after a long battle with cancer.
Fredericks' farming career began in 1973 following his graduation from Iowa State University with a bachelor's degree in animal science. He often referred to himself as the “accidental conservationist." For 20 years he believed a fully conventional tillage operation was the only way to operate. When Mother Nature stepped in and upended his plans, he explored other methods and “accidentally” turned into a lifetime proponent of all things conservation—including pollinator habitat, strip-till, no-till, cover crops and more.
Not only was Fredericks dedicated to making these improvements on his own land, but he also helped other farmers successfully find ways to adopt practices that could build soil, improve water and air quality, and most importantly, improve their way of life. One of the ways in which he shared his knowledge was through speaking to other farmers, including those who attended the 2021 National Strip-Tillage Conference and 2022 National Cover Crop Summit.
The Fredericks spent many years working on trials with the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) On Farm Network and ISA Environmental Programs and Services to implement positive environmental practices on their farm. Their goal was to find productive, profitable, sustainable crop production practices that work while keeping soil, water and air quality at the forefront.
“Wayne was a husband, father, grandfather, farmer and tremendous voice in Iowa’s agricultural community," says Suzanne Shirbroun, ISA president and soybean farmer from Farmersburg. "I was fortunate enough to witness his effective leadership and advocacy for the issues impacting farmers over the years – both as a fellow board director and friend. His mentorship to fellow farmers and passion for conservation were admired by many and have undoubtedly advanced the ISA, American Soybean Association (ASA) and industry in countless ways. Future generations of Iowa farmers will benefit from Wayne’s many contributions and determination. We will miss him very much and extend our deepest condolences to the Fredericks family.”
Fredericks' conservation practices extended beyond his crop fields. In 2014, he enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program to improve his operation and provide a wonderful habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
"We believe it is safe to say, many of us on the ASA staff and beyond will never see a butterfly without thinking fondly of Fredericks, both as a person and as a catalyst for inspiring our industry to do better and do more," read a statement from ASA about Fredericks' death.
Fredericks served on the ASA board from 2015 to 2023. He advocated for understanding and awareness of farmers’ roles in stewardship as an ASA Conservation Champion. He also acted as ASA’s representative on Farmers for Monarchs, an initiative of the Keystone Policy Center. He served on the Iowa Soybean Association Board and was their president in 2015. Other notable work includes his positions on the Mitchell County Farm Bureau, Mitchell County Pork Producers and the Mitchell County Corn and Soybean Producers.
In 2022, Fredericks and his wife, Ruth, received the ASA National Conservation Legacy Award for their outstanding environmental and conservation achievements. Fredericks also received the 2022 Iowa Soybean Association’s Policy Champion Award, recognizing his commitment to advancing policy and regulatory issues benefiting the soybean industry. Most recently, the Iowa Soybean Association presented Fredericks with its 2024 Legacy of Leadership Award.
“Saddened doesn't come close to expressing how we all feel about the passing of our dear friend," says Kirk Leeds, ISA chief executive officer. "Wayne was a generational leader in the soybean industry, particularly in the areas of conservation, stewardship and biodiversity. He cared deeply about his family and the farm, land and water that he had been entrusted with protecting and improving. I will never forget the first time I visited Wayne on his farm as I listened and watched him speak with a sense of reverence about his farm and particularly the soil. He was determined to leave the farm and that beautiful black soil better than it was when he first started farming. It was a commitment that he never forgot and upheld his entire life. Wayne's family is in our prayers as we reflect upon and celebrate his life and the impact he has had on so many.”
The Frederickses married in 1975. They have one daughter, Angela, and two grandchildren. Information about the funeral service for Fredericks is here.