California’s Lundberg Family Farms recognized for conservation efforts

lundberg Family farms

Photo courtesy Sand County Foundation

Lundberg Family Farms of Richvale, California, was selected as the recipient of the 2018 California Leopold Conservation Award.

It is presented annually by the Sand County Foundation, Sustainable Conservation and the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Named in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award was created by the Sand County Foundation to recognize exceptional farmers, ranchers and foresters. It is presented in 14 states.

Lundberg Family Farms will receive a $10,000 award and a crystal depicting Leopold at the CFBF Annual Meeting in San Diego, Dec. 5.

The Butte County family farming operation has a long commitment to sustainable farming methods that produce well-known rice products while improving and protecting the environment for generations to come, according to a news release. Started in 1937, Lundbergs have grown to be a multi-generation organic rice farm and innovative rice products processor.

“We are honored to receive the Leopold Conservation Award in recognition of the environmental practices we have applied on our farms for over 80 years,” says Bryce Lundberg. “Our grandparents instilled a deep respect for the land in our parents. Our family has been deeply influenced to maintain and expand upon that rich tradition.”

“We feel a profound responsibility to enhance our environmental stewardship in all that we do, whether in farming operations, where we have substantially expanded our organic farming practices in the third generation, to building wildlife habitat, including a 100-acre-plus riparian forest along the Feather River, to increasing our use of renewable energy, with nearly 2 megawatts of on-site production, to achieving Platinum Status with the U.S. Zero Waste Council at our primary production site.”

When Albert and Frances Lundberg moved from Nebraska to California’s fertile Sacramento Valley to grow rice in 1937, they did not forget the short-sighted farming techniques and poor soil management they saw along the way. They impressed upon their four sons the importance of respecting the delicate balance of nature and promoting soil health with crop rotations and cover cropping.

As a result, they began to grow rice in an unconventional way. By the 1960s, the Lundberg brothers saw the need to become their own processor and sell their rice directly to consumers. Today, the third and fourth generations of Lundbergs embrace the family’s conservation heritage of using agricultural practices to protect soil, air and water.

The family has pioneered stewardship practices such as flooding fields rather than burning them to break down rice straw after harvest. Since the 1960s, the Lundbergs have found this practice builds soil organic matter while improving air quality. By working with university researchers, they have helped inform fellow growers of this practice, particularly after the burning of rice straw was limited by law.

Not burning the rice straw and planting cover crops also provides habitat for millions of migrating waterfowl to rest, feed and rear their young each winter.

The Lundbergs’ work to encourage water conservation, rotate crops, grow cover crops and use natural methods for pest control  have made them a leader in organic rice production and wildlife-friendly farming. These techniques are shared with others through farm tours.

“The Lundberg family is an absolute standout for its 50-plus years of truly pioneering stewardship for the benefit of people and the environment,” said Ashley Boren, executive director of Sustainable Conservation, which has co-sponsored the award since its inception in California. “They’ve led the way in so many areas. From pioneering organic rice production in the U.S. to boosting clean air by flooding instead of burning fields after harvest to establishing an egg-rescue-and-release program that’s saved tens of thousands of migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway. The list goes on and on.”

“This year’s California recipient, Lundberg Family Farms, has made conservation of the natural resources on their land a way of life, ensuring that future generations will enjoy the same vibrant ecosystems that they inherited from their parents and grandparents,” says CFBF Prsident Jamie Johansson.

The other two finalists for the award were Rominger Brothers Farm, a diversified farm and ranch in Yolo County that has made significant habitat improvements, and Sweet Haven Dairy in Fresno County that has pioneered irrigation water management and conservation tillage.

The Leopold Conservation Award in California is made possible by contributions from American Ag Credit, The Nature Conservancy, Farm Credit West, The Harvey L. & Maud S. Sorensen Foundation, and California LCA Recipient alumni.