Two California rice operations in the running for conservation award

leopold conservation award logoTwo California operations that grow rice are among the three farms in the running for the California Leopold Conservation Award.

The honor, which recognize private landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources, will be presented at the California Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting in December in San Diego. Each finalist will be recognized, and the award recipient will receive a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold and $10,000, according to a news release.

Leopold, considered by many to be the father of wildlife ecology, wrote “A Sand County Almanac” in 1949. At the time, the book, which contained many of the main concepts and foundations of modern conservation and ecology, did not receive critical acclaim. It was not until the environmental movement of the 1970s that it rose in importance, considered by some to be up there with Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”

The awards program is a collaboration among the Sand County Foundation, the California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation.

The finalists are:

Lundberg Family Farms, Butte County, is a multi-generation organic rice farm and rice-products company. The Lundberg family has a long commitment to sustainable farming practices that care for the soil, wildlife, air and water. Their conservation achievements include growing rice following national organic standards, using natural pest control methods, and flooding fields to break down rice stubble and provide habitat for millions of migrating waterfowl each winter.

Rominger Brothers Farm Inc., Yolo County, is a diversified farm and ranch owned and operated by fifth-generation farming brothers Bruce and Rick. They grow a variety of vegetable, tree, fruit and grain crops, having spent the past 30 years evolving their operation into a model of sustainability. Included in their list of accomplishments is growing their main crop, tomatoes, with drip irrigation and in-field moisture sensors to ensure they’re applying no more water than their crops need.

Sweet Haven Dairy, Fresno County, is run by brothers Donny and Andy Rollins. Their commitment led them to test and scale a subsurface drip irrigation system to grow cow feed in lieu of the standard flood-irrigation method. This and other water-saving practices have helped them reduce their water use by 50 percent and save tens of millions of gallons of water each year. The brothers are also pioneers in the use of conservation tillage on their cow-feed crops.