Dedicated land stewardship has paid off in more than just bumper crops for Matt and Kate Lambert of Uptown Farms in Brookfield, Mo.
The Lamberts are the state’s first winners of the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award, which recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. The award was announced Nov. 8 at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention in Kansas City. The honor comes with a $10,000 prize.
“It used to be an accepted school of thought that agriculture, by nature, stole from the environment to be productive,” the Lamberts said in their nomination narrative. “Today, we recognize that farming does not have to be a tax on the environment and resources but can actually work alongside the natural systems for a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Putting that philosophy in action, the Lamberts show that modern agriculture can coexist with conservation successfully. That’s the intent of the award, which is given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, considered to be the father of wildlife management. His 1949 collection of essays, “A Sand County Almanac,” is one of the most influential books about the environment ever written. His namesake award has been presented annually since 2003 by the Sand County Foundation, which was established in 1965 to preserve the Wisconsin property where Leopold did his writing and research. The organization now supports and promotes conservation on working lands across the U.S.
Missouri Farmers Care, a coalition of agricultural organizations that represents the state’s farmers and ranchers, partnered with the Sand County Foundation to bring the Leopold award to the Show-Me State this year. Other finalists for the award were Richard and Renee Fordyce of Bethany and John and Sandy Scherder of Frankford.
“Matt and Kate Lambert reflect the principles of Missouri agriculture—responsible land management, involvement in their community and a long-term view of their farm business,” said Dr. Alan Wessler, MFC chairman. “This year’s entire class of award applicants exhibited exemplary production practices and stewardship. We are proud to work with farmers, ranchers and the partner organizations who made this award possible.”
Matt, 31, and Kate, 30, grow corn, soybeans and wheat and raise red Angus cattle, Hampshire and Dorper sheep and Great Pyrenees dogs on some 2,000 acres in Linn County. Different paths led them to agriculture. Matt grew up farming with his father, Steve, and grandfather, Paul, while Kate was raised in the Chicago suburbs. She found FFA in high school, raising and showing Suffolk sheep, which is how she and Matt met. The couple attended Northwest Missouri State and married in 2009. They have two sons, 6-year-old Mace and 3-year-old Meyer.
Cover crops, no-till, grazing management and precision farming are among the practices that have allowed the Lamberts to adapt to the challenges of today’s farm economy. Diversifying their operation also helps provide income sources at different times of year and make better use of certain areas on the farm.
The Lamberts are also active in the agricultural industry. Their farm was one of the first to be certified by Missouri’s Agricultural Stewardship Assurance Program, and Matt is in his second term on the board of the Missouri Corn Growers Association. Kate, who is assistant vice president for FCS Financial in Chillicothe, volunteers with Missouri CommonGround, a group of farm women who are bridging the gap between consumers and farmers to share the true story of agriculture and the food it provides. Kate also represented Missouri in the American Soybean Association’s communications and advocacy training program this fall, and she tells the real-life story of agriculture through her popular blog, www.UptownGirlBlog.com.
More important than advocacy or awards, the Lamberts insisted, is how their actions today will impact the future.
“Like nearly all of the 97 percent of U.S. farms that are family-owned, our ultimate goal is to pass this farm on to our children. When we bought our home farm three years ago, our driving goal was that it would be in better condition the day they take over than the day we purchased it.”