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Priskes Win 2021 Leopold Conservation Award
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/19/2021

A Columbia County farm couple has been chosen as the 12th recipient of Wisconsin's Leopold Conservation Award. John and Dorothy Priske of Fall River will be recognized on December 5 during the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation in Wisconsin Dells. They will also be given a $10,000 cash prize and a Leopold crystal for demonstrating responsible stewardship and management of natural resources.

Both being Wisconsin natives who grew up on family farms, the Priskes lived in the western part of the country before moving back to the Badger State in 1986 to purchase a 280 crop operation. After visiting a grass-fed beef and sheep station in New Zealand, they decided to transition their fields to pastures and raise Scottish Highland beef cattle.

In the early 2000s, they began direct marketing their beef to farmers markets and high-end restaurants--promoting their brand as a farm that practices environmental and economic resilience with conservation. They also helped train district conservationists on working with farmers, and leased land for Madison College's Institute of Sustainable Agriculture.

In 2017, in collaboration with University of Wisconsin researchers, the Priskes planted 12 acres of Kernza, a perennial grain with an extensive root system. Their grain was sold to Patagonia Provisions that made the world's first beer from Kernza, aptly named Long Root Ale.

Now retired, the Priskes remain active in promoting responsible land management and agricultural sustainability. They've sold all of their cattle and rent their pastures to other graziers.

The Leopold program is being sponsored at the state level by the WFBF, along with the Sand County Foundation, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, American Farmland Trust, Compeer Financial, Culver's, McDonald's, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, We Energies Foundation, Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, and Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association.

John and Dorothy Priske were one of three finalists to compete for the Leopold Conservation Award this year. The others were Mike Berg of Blanchardville; and Charlie Hammer & Nancy Kavazanjian from Beaver Dam.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. It inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders

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