7/13/2017 12:00:00 AM
Iowa Farm Wins Regional Environmental Award
A Nemaha family farm, which supplies the beef for the 2017 Iowa’s Best Burger, was named the Region 3 winner of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) Environmental Stewardship Awards Program (ESAP.) The farm is now in the running for the national ESAP award, which will be announced in February.
NCBA initiated the environmental award program in 1991 to highlight exceptional work done by cattle producers to protect and enhance the environment. Since its inception, Iowa cattle producers have won 17 regional awards and three national ones. Region 3 includes Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. ESAP is supported by the National Cattlemen’s Foundation, Dow AgroSciences, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The award winning farm, owned and operated by Lynn and Joy Smith and Seth and Etta Smith, is located on the banks of the Raccoon River, and utilizes a variety of conservation practices to protect and improve soil and water quality.
In addition to great conservation practices, the Smiths produce great beef. Beef from their farm is used in The Smokin’ Hereford’s burger. The burger was chosen by a panel of independent judges earlier this year as the 2017 Iowa’s Best Burger.
The Iowa’s Best Burger contest is sponsored by the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. Each year, Iowans nominate their favorite burgers and the ten restaurants with the most nominations are visited by a secret panel of judges. The judges ultimately pick the winner based on the taste, appearance and proper serving temperature. This year, The Smokin’ Hereford’s 8 ounce, hand-pattied Hereford burger beat out nearly 500 other restaurants for the title.
More about the farm:
Lynn started farming in 1971 and his son, Seth, followed in his footsteps in 2001. Today, their farm consists of 1,900 acres of row crops, 510 acres of pasture, a 500 head feeder to finish hog barn, 210 cow-calf pairs and a 2,200 head feedlot.
The Smiths are part of a growing group of Iowa cattle producers who are demonstrating that the integration of cattle operations and row-crop farms can be, and should be, a valuable part of the nutrient reduction strategy. The Smiths, like many other Iowa farmers, represent several generations of the family on the same land. And their goal is to pass the farm on to the next generation. To do so, they must continue to make advances in efficiency and sustainability. From their use of conservation tillage beginning in 1977 to more recent feedlot and pasture renovations, their efforts to improve water quality and soil health on their row-crop acres go hand in hand with their expanding cattle operation.
The Smiths’ two feedlot sites have undergone several changes in the past few years with the goal of increased efficiency, animal comfort and environmental stewardship. One of the Smiths’ feedlots overlooks the Raccoon River, a visible reminder of the importance of environmental stewardship. There are several safeguards in place to minimize the chances that manure will reach the river such as a settling basin and dike and lagoon systems. Both solid and liquid manure are utilized as fertilizer on the surrounding fields and each animal provides roughly $47 worth of nutrients for the row-crops.
The Smiths’ combination of rotational grazing and an extended grazing season are a great recipe for success from an environmental health and financial standpoint. Some of the main environmental advantages that come from utilizing rotational and extended grazing are reduction in soil compaction, increased soil fertility, more opportunity for plants to prosper, less forage wasted and efficiently utilizing available forage resources. In addition to the pasture acres, the Smiths are working towards extending their grazing season by utilizing cover crops, corn stalks and small grains.
Changes in land-use have perhaps had the biggest effect on environmental sustainability. As row-crop land is converted to pasture or grassland, nitrogen and phosphorus losses are cut dramatically. Perennial cover through well-managed grazing protects highly-erodible land from erosion, provides a habitat for wildlife and pollinators, and revitalizes soil health.
The challenge for many farmers is the balance between the environment and economics. But the Smiths’ farm is living proof that environmental and economic goals do not have to compete against one-another. Incorporating cattle, whether it’s through a cow-calf operation, feedlot, or both, goes a long way towards meeting both goals.
The integration of all three farm endeavors – row crops, cow-calf and feedlot – have enabled the Smiths to make advances in environmental stewardship and profitability, all while producing great beef and a great burger.
About the Iowa Cattlemen's Association: The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association represents more than 10,000 beef-producing families and associated companies dedicated to the future of Iowa’s beef industry. ICA’s mission is “Grow Iowa’s beef business through advocacy, leadership and education.”
Editor's Note: More information about the Smith's farm (including their 12-page ESAP application) is available at http://www.iacattlemen.org/environmentalstewardshipaward.aspx
Photos of the Smith family and their farm are available on Flickr here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskywC9rY
Best Burger photos are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskU3AX2W