Bob and Fred Uphoff
Two Wisconsin hog farmers who exemplify environmentally sound farming practices and innovative land protection were hailed as the winners of the 1999 Steward of the Land Award, presented by American Farmland Trust.
Bob and Fred Uphoff, of Madison, Wis., were presented with the $10,000 award for their work to preserve the environment, implement farmer-friendly land policy changes, and protect threatened farmland in their area while running an economically viable farming operation.
"It is no coincidence that there is an increased national attention to protecting farmland," said Ralph Grossi, president of American Farmland Trust. "The efforts of the Uphoffs and others like them have helped thrust farmland protection into the national spotlight, where the administration has recently put forth proposals for more than $75 million in federal funds to support the farmland protection work of individuals like Bob and Fred Uphoff."
"The Uphoffs lead by action," said Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel. "They show that you can balance farm economics with an environmental concern." Bob and Fred Uphoff are the fourth generation of Uphoffs on the Uphoff Ham & Bacon Farm, which has been in the family since 1866. The brothers run a profitable, environmentally sound 500-acre operation that produces 2,000 hogs annually as well as corn, soybeans and other grains.
"Every chance we have we need to let people know that well-managed farms will enhance the environment," said Brancel. The Uphoffs have kept part of their land out of production for use as wildlife habitat and utilize state-of-the-art no-till farming, runoff management and manure handling techniques as part of a farm-wide conservation plan. In 1997, America's Clean Water Foundation asked Bob Uphoff to help USDA and EPA officials write the "Comprehensive Environmental Framework for Pork Production Operations," and he is currently chairman of the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Board.
"Farmers have to be able to react to change, otherwise we become extinct," said Bob Uphoff.
Loss of productive farmland is one of the most serious challenges facing America's farmers. According to United States Department of Agriculture data, more than 13.7 million acres of farmland were converted to non-farm use between 1992 and 1997. Wisconsin lost 2,300 farms during that period.
The Uphoff farm in Madison, situated in the middle of the nation's third most-threatened agricultural area, is less than six miles from the Wisconsin state capitol building. Their proximity to the capitol and their commitment to preserving farmland have made Bob and Fred Uphoff extraordinary leaders in the battle to save Wisconsin's farms. Bob Uphoff has served on the Town of Dunn planning commission since 1980, and his efforts to preserve the town's rural character paid off in 1996 when a pioneering purchase of development rights program was added to the town's land use policies. The Uphoffs themselves were the first to make use of the program, permanently protecting their farm from development, and other area farmers were not far behind.
"In no small part because of the Uphoffs' efforts, the town of Dunn is out in front in terms of purchase of development rights in the state of Wisconsin," said Ed Minihan, chairman of the Town of Dunn Board. The Uphoffs have also worked for years with state government officials to promote farmland protection, and Bob has served since 1991 on the National Pork Producers Council's board of directors.
"The Uphoffs won this award because they are doing things on their farm and in their community that every American farmer should be proud of," said American Farmland Trust president Ralph Grossi. "Even in a less than perfect business climate, Bob and Fred Uphoff have run a model farm while helping keep agriculture productive in their town. Their leadership is valuable not just to Wisconsin farmers, but sets an example for farmers and land use planners all over the United States."
The Steward of the Land Award was founded in 1996 to honor the memory of American Farmland Trust founding board member Peggy McGrath Rockefeller. Rockefeller's vision and deep personal commitment to farmland conservation live on in the men and women who compete for the annual award. This year's award ceremony, held at the University Club in Washington, D.C., recognized Bob and Fred Uphoff as the American farmers who best personify the ideals embraced by AFT's mission: to stop the loss of productive farmland and promote farming practices that lead to a healthy environment. The Uphoffs beat out 33 other competitors from 20 different states for this year's $10,000 award.
Bob Uphoff, 44, was born in Madison, Wis., and has worked on the Uphoff farm his entire life. Fred Uphoff, 48, was also born in Madison; he returned to the farm in 1979 after several years in the United States Air Force and a five-year stint on a Texas farm.