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Vision for a Sustainable Future

Darcy Maulsby Selected 2023 Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year
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Darcy Maulsby shows off the trees in a windbreak on her five-acre property.

Calhoun County landowner, conservationist, and author Darcy Maulsby selected 2023 Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year.

Darcy Maulsby

Darcy Maulsby is inspiring and connecting generations and communities through her decades of conservation stewardship. For her efforts, Maulsby was selected Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) at the Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI) Annual Meeting on Aug. 28 in Ames.

Sowing Seeds of Conservation

Maulsby’s conservation journey began with her family’s Century Farm in Calhoun County, near Lake City. “Our family has used a variety of conservation practices for years on our corn and soybean acres,” she says.

The family has implemented grassed waterways, windbreaks, and reduced tillage methods, creating a path of sustainable stewardship. “Our focus has been on managing soil erosion and preserving water quality,” she said.

Growing up, Maulsby recalls not truly understand the impact of the conservation practices her father implemented, but as she got older, recognizing the importance and concepts of soil and water conservation. Decades later these practices are still providing benefits.

A Journey of Knowledge and Implementation

Maulsby’s passion for conservation led her to Iowa State University Extension’s Master Conservationist Program, which enriched her understanding of ecological systems and sustainable practices. Maulsby purchased land close to her families’ and used Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) funds to rejuvenate a windbreak on her own five acres. She planted native trees, including red cedars and oaks, alongside an array of shrubs, reawakening the ecosystem on her land.

“The resources that organizations, counties and our federal government provide could make all the difference for young people and those just starting out,” said Maulsby. “I have written about NRCS, specifically, for years. It has been great learning more about the resources available and sharing this knowledge with landowners.”

As a journalist, Maulsby’s knowledge and passion for conservation increased as she spoke with farmers about their yields and how they were working hard to better the land while maintaining or increasing their return on investment.

Maulsby is not only a journalist but a published author. She continues to utilize her talent to write and share her passion for Iowa’s history and conservation. “Many of the seven, non-fiction Iowa history books I’ve written since 2015 have included stories of conservation in Iowa,” she says. “Perhaps the best example of this is my 224-page book Iowa Agriculture: A History of Farming, Family and Food, published in 2020 by The History Press. Chapter 14 is titled “Conserving Iowa’s Natural Resources” and contains stories and photos related to the history of conservation in Iowa, as well as contemporary stories and photos of how Iowa’s farmers are incorporating pollinator habitat, cover crops, prairie strips, windbreaks and more to protect Iowa’s precious natural resources.”

Community Involvement

Although Maulsby is busy, she makes time to ensure her community is aware of the resources available to them. She utilizes her platform to help bring producers together to help protect their land through conservation for generations to come.

As a commissioner with the Calhoun County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), she extends her commitment and passion to her community. Maulsby helps organize events like the Calhoun County Extension and Outreach’s windbreak meeting, attracting participants from across Iowa, allowing her to network and engage in discussions about conservation.

Darcy Maulsby discusses the importance of the windbreak on her families operation with Jeremy Viles, District Conservationist with NRCS in Calhoun County.

Jeremy Viles, District Conservationist with NRCS in Calhoun County, asked Maulsby to become a commissioner for years. “We probably met about 15 years ago. I would listen to her speak at various events and read her articles,” said Viles. “She is extremely active in promoting conservation in our communities. I knew she would be a good fit.”

Maulsby’s advocacy for collaboration is evident through her leadership roles in organizations such as the Calhoun County Corn Growers and the Calhoun County Farm Bureau board. She actively participates in Ag Career Days and champions Ag in the Classroom initiatives. Through these platforms, Maulsby aims to bridge the gap between urban and rural communities, emphasizing the shared responsibility in conservation efforts.

“Conservation does pay off,” she says, addressing a common concern among farmers. “Give this stuff a try for three years and go get some soil tests,” she suggests. She emphasizes tapping into resources to gain insight into soil biology, which can pave the way for sustainable success over time.

Maulsby truly believes in the future of agriculture. “The most exciting frontier is the microbes, the soil biology under our feet,” she says. “That is going to be the answer to a lot of our challenges in agriculture – truly understanding how we nourish that soil biology and work in harmony with nature.”

Maulsby believes that experimentation is key to learning, and she urges farmers to connect within Iowa’s agricultural community to overcome hesitations. “You protect what you love,” she emphasized.

Her stories, along with those of fellow conservationists, instill a sense of responsibility to protect precious resources for future generations. She envisions a brighter future for rural Iowa, where conservation is a cornerstone. “I have always believed Iowa can and should be a national leader that sets the standard for what conservation looks like. We can do this, says Maulsby.”

She says she hopes younger generations see opportunities out there. “I always like to go to Jeremy to get his perspective because I don't know that young people necessarily think about a career within our or conservation as ag related or even an option right here in the county,” said Maulsby. “I know I was not aware of this stuff when I was middle school aged, and so we're trying to plant that seed that, ‘hey, even if you're not the farmer driving the tractor, there are ag careers and if you like conservation, if you like working outside, doing Jeremy's got a cool job, learn more about what he does.’”

The Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year is selected annually by the Iowa NRCS Federal Women’s Program Committee. If you are interested in nominating a deserving farmer or landowner for an Iowa conservation award, visit

Photos (Flickr)


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