Noll’s Dairy Farm Leopold Conservation Award Winner

Noll’s Dairy Farm of Alma is the 2023 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award recipient.

The award honors farmers and forestland owners who go above and beyond in their management of soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on working land. A video celebrating the farm family’s conservation success will be premiered during the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting.

The award is in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. The award recognizes farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to environmental improvement. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for what he called “a land ethic,” an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

About Noll’s Dairy Farm

Mark, Curtis, and Scott Noll and their families have long appreciated and enjoyed the natural resources in their care. Their farm consists of 400 acres of contoured corn, soybean, and hay fields managed in concert with 450 acres of adjacent forests, oak savannas, and prairies that provide timber production and wildlife habitat.

Nothing showcases their commitment to conservation like their restoration of a dry bluff prairie remnant. These ecologically rare landforms, nicknamed goat prairies, are sparsely found along the Mississippi River bluffs of western Wisconsin. The Nolls were inspired to act after learning of their significance in the 1990s.

Today they actively manage one of the largest dry bluff prairie remnants in Buffalo County. Through this process they also restored oak savannas.

Noticeable from the road is the contour strip cropping system that divides the farm into 119 fields. This configuration, coupled with a no-till system, helps prevent soil erosion. The Nolls also plant winter rye, turnips, and tillage radishes as cover crops to improve soil health and prevent erosion.

Given their location hundreds of feet above the Mississippi River, the Nolls understand the importance of keeping soils in place and away from surface and ground waters. Since 1969 they have installed more than 20 earthen dams and erosion control structures to prevent the formation of gullies.

The Nolls keep dairy cow manure in a storage facility before spreading the nutrients on fields. Revenue from selectively harvesting timber on the farm financed construction of the manure storage. Since drafting their first timber harvest management plan in 1997 the Nolls have continuously improved timber stands for future generations, and enhanced wildlife and pollinator habitat.

The Nolls enrolled 735 acres in a cooperative effort with Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources in 2014 that manages deer populations at levels that support hunting and regeneration of woodlands. The Nolls have since attributed a reduction in crop damage to giving deer a choice of habitats due to dozens of different forestry projects underway.

Find a list of all of the finalists here.