Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award Finalists Selected

15 May 2024 11:26 AM | Jennifer Elwell (Administrator)

Three finalists have been selected for the 2024 Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award®.

The award honors farmers and forestland owners who go above and beyond in their management of soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on working land.

Named in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, this award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to environmental improvement. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for “a land ethic,” an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states. In Kentucky, the $10,000 award is presented with Kentucky Agricultural Council and the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts.

The finalists are:

Steve and Melanie Kelley of Bardwell in Carlisle County: The Kelleys utilize no-till practices and plant cover crops to conserve soil and moisture. This enhances the soil for the next year’s crop. Their farm features 48 acres of filter strips, and 17 acres of grassed waterways and rock chutes to mitigate erosion. Solar panels produce electricity and provide the farm with another source of income. Wildlife and pollinator-friendly habitat has been established on 800 acres.

John and Randy Seymour of Upton in Hart County: The Seymours have actively managed their woodland for timber and wildlife habitat since the 1970s. Overtime they converted a tobacco, hay, and beef cattle farm into native seed production. In addition to a 100-acre savanna restoration they efforts protect a large cave that hosts thousands of gray bats in their breeding season. By creating the Roundstone Native Seed Company they provide the means for others to establish native grass and wildflower habitats.

Michael W. Wilson of Lawrenceburg in Anderson County: Michael Wilson implements rotational grazing in the summer and bale grazing in the winter to reduce soil erosion, prevent overgrazing, recycle nutrients, and increase plant regrowth and biodiversity. By equipping soil with greater organic matter, he’s making it more resilient to drought and extreme rainfall events. Michael served as chairman of the Anderson County Conservation District.

Kentucky farmland and forestland owners were encouraged to apply, or be nominated, for the award. An independent panel of Kentucky agricultural and conservation leaders reviewed the applications.

The award recipient will be recognized at the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts’ Annual Convention in July.

“The Kentucky Agricultural Council is once again honored to recognize private landowners across the state who practice exceptional stewardship and conservation practices,” said Dr. Tony Brannon, Kentucky Agricultural Council Chair. “Kentucky farmers have for many years been innovators in protecting our natural resources to ensure the long-term success of food and fiber production.”

“KACD and conservation districts promote the sound management of all our natural resources, and we are excited to recognize these well deserving landowners in Kentucky,” said Allan Bryant, Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts President. “The Association and conservation districts work daily to assist private landowners in their efforts to adopt sound soil and water conservation practices on their land that benefit us all.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Kentucky award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

Last year’s award recipient was Veatch Farms of Campbellsville in Marion County.

The Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award is made possible thanks to the generous support and partnership of American Farmland Trust, Kentucky Agricultural Council, Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts, Sand County Foundation, Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation, U.S Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, AgriBusiness Association of Kentucky, Farm Credit Mid-America, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association, Kentucky Corn Growers Association, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Pork Producers, Kentucky Soybean Promotion Board, Kentucky Tree Farm Committee, Kentucky Woodland Owner’s Association, and University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

For more information on the award, visit

The Kentucky Agricultural Council is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Administrative Address: PO Box 722, Shepherdsville, KY 40165
Official Address: 105 Corporate Drive, Frankfort, KY 40601

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