Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Leopold Center Celebrates 20th Anniversary

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is celebrating a significant milestone this week -- its 20th birthday.

Based at Iowa State University in Ames, the center was created in 1987 by the Iowa Legislature as part of the 1987 Groundwater Protection Act in an effort to increase the sustainability of Iowa agriculture. Its mission has been to conduct and sponsor research to reduce negative impacts of agricultural practices. During that time, the center has focused on assisting with the development of emerging alternative practices and getting the word out on its findings.

The milestone was marked by a two-day celebration on the ISU campus, complete with a festive luncheon showcasing Iowa-grown foods like fruits from Berry Patch Farm and grilled chicken from family farms in Audobon County.


Pictured above, visitors to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's 20th anniversary celebration had the opportunity to taste "place-based foods" at the Local Food Tasting and Talks table.
The midday festival was complete with displays of innovative technologies developed to improve the environmental impact of agriculture.
Iowa State University agricultural and biosystems engineering expert Mark Hanna, left, explains the display of an impellicone, an award-winning fertilizer application system designed at ISU. The system has the potential to reduce the amount of anhydrous ammonia needed to be applied to crops.

Jerry DeWitt, director of the Leopold Center, spoke with Iowa Independent about the events Wednesday. "We're looking at not only the successes of the last 20 years of the Leopold Center here in Iowa, but we're looking at what the future should be," said DeWitt. "Where should we be going, what new directions. So with the 300 people here today in Ames, we're having workshops, presentations, interactive work and demonstrations that speak to the questions of how do we put more people on the land."

The day's workshops and demonstrations included talks on maintaining the land's capacity for self-renewal, planning an energy-efficient landscape for Iowa and an Iowa local local foods show.

"We're talking about food and health systems, we're talking about the bioeconomy and energy, where we're headed," said DeWitt. "And we're talking about production agriculture and how can we sustain that down the road. So today's activities are about getting input, listening, and figuring out what do we do in the next 20 years. But more importantly, what do we do in the next three to five years to make profitable agriculture that sustains the land and that's good for the community."

The Leopold Center is named for one of the heroes of the environmentalist movement, Aldo Leopold, a man considered by many to be the father of wildlife ecology. Leopold, whose Iowa roots can be traced to Burlington, is the author of A Sand County Almanac, one of the most-influential works in the environmental movement that spurred millions to change their thinking about the world in which we live.

Iowa's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is a fitting tribute to his legacy, with a long list of accomplishments that have been celebrated during this week's anniversary. The center has been instrumental in groundbreaking research at Bear Creek in Story County that has served as a model statewide for more than 64,000 acres of buffers and erosion control practices, and has been recognized as a national leader in food systems research aimed at adding value to cropland production. When people are looking for information on local foods and the concept of "food miles" traveled from farm to table, they look to the Leopold Center's website as the top site on the internet accessed for such information.

The anniversary events kicked off Tuesday, with a series of educational tours of Iowa locations like the Whiterock Conservancy and The Homestead. Other tours on Tuesday included visits to sustainable dairies and vineyards.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie delivered the keynote address for Wednesday's events.

Ritchie, who grew up in Iowa and is an ISU graduate, is the founder of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a public research center that works to foster long-term economic and environmental sustainability.

Wednesday's schedule of workshops and seminars were led by experts in the fields of local food systems, renewable fuels and soil sciences -- all with a focus on agricultural sustainability.



At right, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie gives the keynote address at the anniversary celebration. Ritchie is an ISU graduate and has been involved in promoting sustainable agricultural practices for much of his life.

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