The 2017 Leopold Conservation Award was recently presented by the Sand County Foundation at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting. This year’s recipient was Jeff Thomson, a fifth-generation farmer from Thomson International, Inc. in Kern County. “This year’s winner is perhaps somewhat unique,” said President and CEO of the Sand County Foundation Kevin McAleese, “shortly after his selection, he passed away suddenly.”
Thomson’s family attended the ceremony to receive the award on his behalf. “They really saw it as a way to honor what he had achieved in terms of improving their farm operation, making it profitable, managing the transition to the next generation and investing himself in a leadership role all across the San Joaquin Valley in doing wetland restoration and other conservation activities,” said McAleese.
For over 25 years, Thomson had a mission to enhance soil health and improve the land he farmed. He established an 850-acre protected wetland on his own property, working tirelessly to improve plant diversity to provide an adequate habitat for various waterfowl. Thomson took a holistic approach to conservation, employing multiple techniques to better steward the soil, water, and wildlife.
The competitive award is presented to those who demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources. It originated in Colorado and has expanded to include 14 states. “It’s been going on for 15 years. This is the eleventh award that we’ve presented in California,” McAleese said.
The Leopold Conservation Award is named in honor of Aldo Leopold, an influential conservationist who wrote A Sand County Almanac, which highlights the importance of an ethical relationship between people and their environment. “What he concluded is that there’s no way for government programs and land acquisition to do enough to protect wildlife and land health. It’s got to come from a compelling, internal ethic among landowners,” McAleese noted.
Listen to McAleese’s full interview for history on the Sand County Foundation and their award.