Two Castalia family farmers, known just as much for their strong conservation ethic as well as their big maple syrup festival, are winners of the 2016 Iowa Conservation Farmer of the Year award.  The award, which got its start in 1952, is co-sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS).  

Dale and Karen Green, owners of the Spring Valley Farms, have adopted more than 30 stewardship practices on their farm to promote conservation.  A majority of their 30 conservation practices are self-funded; another 14 came through cost-share funding through collaborative federal and state conservation programs.

Practices put in place on the Green farm include grassed waterways, cover crops, no-till and tree-planting and wetlands, as well as contour farming, soil testing, manure management and precision fertilizer applications.  Much of the work is also part of collaborative, research-based efforts designed and installed through the Yellow River Headwaters Water Quality Project, and used as a demonstration project for livestock producers throughout Iowa.  The Greens are also recipients of the Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award, presented at the Iowa State Fair Aug. 17.

“We bring several thousand people to our farm every year when we host our annual Maple Syrup Festival at Green’s Sugarbush; it’s not only fun for them to go on trail rides through our forests, it’s a learning opportunity for them to see our connection to the land and the ‘big picture’ in preserving it.  We are farmers, yes, but we are caretakers of the land, first, last and always,” says Karen Green. 

“Leading by example is so important, because everyone has a role to play in cleaning up our water quality.  The Greens show how much progress can come by working together.  This kind of work encourages everyone to learn more, do more, ask questions and take back what they’ve learned, and try it in their communities, in their towns, on their farms.  We must all work towards leaving the land and watershed better for the next generation,” says IFBF President Craig Hill.  

As part of receiving the award, the Greens will receive free use of a John Deere 6D Series Utility tractor for up to 12 months or 200 hours.  The tractor award is sponsored annually by Farm Bureau partner Van Wall Equipment of Perry and John Deere. This year’s tractor is provided by Bodensteiner Implement Company.  More info on the John Deere implement dealer can be found at  The Greens get their ‘keys to the tractor’ during the Conservation Districts of Iowa annual meeting August 29 at Prairie Meadows in Altoona.

Regional winners include: Torray Wilson, Paulina; William Drury, Clarion; Mike and Lori Nelson, Greenfield; Wade Dooley, Albion; Larry and Gini Van Ersvelde, Grinnell; Larry Griffin, Grand River and Veri Jr. and Judy Jackson, Hedrick.