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Jimmy Emmons Wins Oklahoma's First Leopold Conservation Award

Jimmy and Ginger Emmons, Oklahoma's first Leopold Conservation Award winnerIn Oklahoma, conservation plays a key role in just about every farming and ranching operation. Soil health and water conservation practices help Oklahomans maximize their land while also regenerating the land’s natural resources.

Several people in Oklahoma have been at the forefront of conservation in the state. However, only one has been recognized as a Leopold Conservation Award winner and that is Jimmy Emmons from Leedey. Emmons and his wife Ginger farm and run cattle on land that has been in his family since 1926. In Western Oklahoma where rain is scarce and water is a precious commodity, Emmons realized he needed to make changes to his operation to maximize his natural resources. Emmons started incorporating no-till farming practices as early as 1995 and now has a complete no-till operation. It’s that kind of thinking and long-term commitment to conservation that landed Emmons the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award.

Since 2003, the Leopold Conservation Award is given out annually by the Sand County Foundation to “agricultural landowners actively committed to a land ethic.” According to the Sand County Foundation website, the award recognizes people who show “extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation, inspire other landowners through their example, and help the general public understand the vital role private landowners can and do play in conservation success.” Emmons exemplifies those qualifications. Leopold Conservation Award Program Director Lance Irving said, “Jimmy and Ginger Emmons provide a great example of how conservation practices can improve the environment and a farmer's or rancher’s bottom line. Wildlife and water quality are benefiting from their actions while the profitability of the Emmons’ farm has increased.” Irving continued, “The Emmons’ were early adopters of practices such as pollinator strips and companion crops, and have diversified to adapt to changing weather and market conditions. In addition to doing wonderful things on the farm, Jimmy and Ginger bring the message of conservation to many people. Jimmy’s leadership in several organizations in addition to field days and hosting visitors from literally all over the world showcases the commitment to conservation.”

Through his role on the Dewey County Conservation District Board and as the president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, Emmons finds himself on the frontlines of the conservation conversation. Emmons knows that resources are scarce and he wants to continue the legacy that started with his grandfather. "My grandfather did the best he could with the tools and knowledge he had to manage our family's land. I am trying to continue that legacy by using what we now know are the best practices for improving the health of our soils. My goal is that my grandson, Owen, and his children will be able to farm this land for another 100 years, if they choose. That is only possible if Ginger and I do our part to take care of the natural resources," said Emmons.   

NRCS State Conservationist Gary O’Neill praised Emmons and his willingness to lead by serving others saying, “Jimmy has become a great leader for conservation in Oklahoma. His passion and commitment to conservation has helped the conservation partnership be more effective in assisting farmers and ranchers addressing their conservation needs. He is always willing to spend his time to help farmers and ranchers, NRCS, and conservation district staff learn more about soil health. He is always willing to help, as a local leader on his conservation district board, a state leader as President of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, and as a national leader testifying before the House Ag Committee.”

Sarah Blaney, Director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts said, “Jimmy is a tenacious leader. His work in conservation and willingness to share his story and encourage others to try conservation practices has revitalized our organization - in my opinion. Jimmy and Ginger are true stewards of the land and incredible community members. They are generous with their time, knowledge, and resources. The conservation partnership in Oklahoma is better because of Jimmy and Ginger Emmons.”

To go along with the prestige of being named a Leopold Conservation award winner, the Sand County Foundation also presents award winners with a crystal award and $10,000 in a setting that showcases the landowner’s achievements among their peers. Emmons received his award at the Conservation Awards Ceremony at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry on April 12th.

The Leopold Conservation Award is named after Aldo Leopold who called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. The Leopold Conservation Award Program is currently presented in 13 states with more to come in 2018. The Oklahoma award is sponsored by The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation, ITC Holdings, and the Noble Research Institute. For more information on the Leopold Conservation Award visit www.sandcountyfoundation.org.

To view Jimmy and Ginger Emmons Leopold Conservation Award video, click here.