Iowa Conservation Farmer of the Year Award

(Photo: Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance / Rebekah Jones)

Voss recognized as conservation champion

September 21, 2023 | Jeff Hutton

He’s been at the forefront of conservation efforts in Iowa, implementing cover crops, edge-of-field practices, no-till and strip-till and small pollinator habitats.

So, it make sense that Dan Voss, a rural Benton County soybean and corn farmer, be named this year’s recipient of the Iowa Conservation Farmer of the Year award.

The award, sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), recently recognized Voss for his long-term commitment to soil conservation and water quality.

Doing what’s right

“I have to admit, I enjoy this accolade,” says Voss, adding that it’s bigger than himself. “It’s nice to be recognized, but this is about the greater good.”

That greater good is about preserving Iowa’s rich farmland while also protecting valuable resources that are important to everyone, not just those out in the field, he says.

Voss, an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer-member, was recently featured during the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance’s (IAWA) events recognizing the 10th anniversary of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. He and fellow farmer Jim O’Connell were recognized for their conservation efforts they’ve put into practice with a tour of Voss’ farm. There, he showed how those endeavors positively impact the Cedar River Watershed. Voss’ work is part of the Cedar River Source Water Partnership (CRSWP), designed to help protect water resources for the City of Cedar Rapids and beyond.

“In our area, the adaptation of these practices is proof that conservation has caught on,” says Voss, who continues to implement multiple conservation projects on his farm.

Wetlands, cover crops, bioreactors, saturated buffers and other edge-of-field practices are critical, Voss argues, because protecting land and water is critical.

He says these voluntary practices, along with continued partnerships between the ag sector, retailers, businesses, private entities and government, are key, not unlike the CRSWP.

“Look at Cedar Rapids,” Voss says. “They want quality water for their production facilities and residents. The public wants it.

“We all need to do something to work toward that goal,” Voss says. “It pains my heart to drive down the road and see planting right next to a stream. I hate to see that soil slough off into the creek.”

Conservation Leader in Eastern Iowa

Sustainable future

Others recognize Voss’ efforts.

“Dan has been a conservation leader here in East Central Iowa,” says ISA Conservation Agronomist Evan Brehm. “He and his family have been continuously utilizing and adding conservation practices on their row crop acres. Dan has seen the agronomic and environmental benefits by using cover crops, his no-till/strip-till practices, and adding edge-of-field implementations such as saturated buffers.”

Voss is not alone in his efforts.

Along with Dan’s son, Bryan, their farming neighbors and business partners like Linn Cooperative, Brehm says the CRSWP has flourished. 

He notes that he has seen these efforts with Linn Coop and their customers like Dan, who are continuing to build a sustainable future in agriculture – a sustainable future where Iowa continues to be a leader in crop production and environmental awareness.

Positive change

This award for Voss has some nice perks, including the free use of a John Deere 6E Series utility tractor (sponsored by Van Wall Equipment of Perry and John Deere) for up to a year or 200 hours.

But the real perk for Voss has been the ability to share his family farm’s efforts in conservation and how it can make a difference both in the field and downstream.

“With soil erosion and high nitrates, it affects society,” he says. “We have to do more to protect soil and water.”

What Voss and his family are doing, as well as the conservation practices by many farmers across the state, is nothing short of a “win for society,” Voss says.

The rural Atkins farmer is always open to new ideas on his farm. He’s interested in efforts that protect soil and water and help build productivity and profitability in the field.

“Farmers are pretty innovative,” he says. “We see something negative happening and we want to do something to change it.”