The Herricks family of Cashton, Wis. received the state's 2014 Leopold Conservation Award. The Leopold Conservation Award is a program that recognizes agricultural landowners actively committed to a land ethic. 

Jack and Pat Herricks, along with two of their three children, operate a 600-cow dairy farm in the rolling hills of Monroe County. They've practiced no-till farming since 1992, before many farmers had considered it. Jack made up his mind to become a no-till farmer when he could see erosion on his cropland. Today, erosion is reduced substantially, even on the steep hillsides the family farms.

Inspired by his father’s land ethic, Jack’s decades-long commitment to conservation has proven that good land management and profitability go hand in hand.

In addition to no-till farming, the Herrickses' practices include reduction of runoff into area waterways, forestry management, enhancement of wildlife habitat and careful manure management.

Sod waterways allow rainwater to run on grass to the stream below. Where a great deal of water comes together, the Herricks have built erosion control structures to prevent damage downstream. The structures also maintain a pool of water that benefits wildlife on the farm.

Water quality in Brush Creek has improved with help from the Herricks’ conservation efforts. The waterway was considered a dead trout stream some 20 years ago. Today, Brush Creek has improved from a Class III forage fishery to a sustainable trout stream with active natural reproduction of fish.

The family also made a decision to stop grazing in the farm’s woodland areas. Over time, natural re-vegetation of oak, maple and hickory trees has taken place.

“When I think of farmers as conservationists, one farmer comes to mind as having a truly contagious passion for agriculture and natural resources: Jack Herricks," says Monroe County Soil & Water Conservationist, Bob Micheel. “Jack has shown leadership in wise land-use management by always stepping up and addressing land-use issues, even if it meant taking some risks. He took those risks because he acutely understands taking care of the land means that it will take care of you, and, in turn, protect his farm for the future.”

For more information on the Leopold Conservation Award program, visit leopoldconservationaward.org