Each year, Benton SWCD and NRCS present an award for the Benton County Outstanding Conservation Cooperators (OCC). This award is important because it recognizes individuals and organizations for outstanding accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota's natural resource

2017 Benton Outstanding Cooperators - Leonard and Jackie Popp

 Pictured from left to right: The Popp family: Phil, Melissa, Leonard, Jackie, Lenore, and Jacob; and Paula Mohr,  The Farmer  magazine representative.

Pictured from left to right: The Popp family: Phil, Melissa, Leonard, Jackie, Lenore, and Jacob; and Paula Mohr, The Farmer magazine representative.

        Leonard and Jackie Popp of Rice were recently honored as outstanding conservationists at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, December 3-5, 2017 in Bloomington, Minn. They were selected by the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for the award.

        Each year, with support from The Farmer magazine, the state's SWCDs recognize individuals and organizations through this award program for outstanding accomplishments in implementing conservation practices and improving Minnesota's natural resources. The Outstanding Conservationist contest is an important event because it recognizes the accomplishments and efforts of local cooperators in soil and water conservation. 

         The Popp’s own 160 acres and operate 78 acres of tillable land and have been putting conservation on the ground for many years, both on their own and with Benton SWCD technical/financial assistance. The Popp’s were recognized as outstanding conservationists in Benton County for a variety of reasons listed below:

·           Installed three field windbreaks and planted 1125 trees on 2.75 acres through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

·           Installed a riparian buffer along Mayhew Creek to exclude the cattle from the creek while stabilizing the streambank by planting 500 trees on 3.9 acres through CRP.

·           Planted additional trees along the driveway and homestead on his own with SWCD technical assistance as a living snow fence and shelterbelt for snow and wind protection.

·           Installed a 1.2 acre grassed filter strip along a ditch on one of the tillable fields through CRP.

·           Installed a grassed waterway on one of the tillable fields with Benton SWCD technical and financial assistance.

·           Has incorporated residue management on the tillable acres by chisel plowing.

·           Has been working with Benton SWCD on establishing cover crops on his tillable acres after crops are harvested.

·           Has been incorporating nutrient and manure management on the tillable acres with Benton SWCD technical assistance.

·           Installed feedlot runoff control measures on his own with Benton SWCD technical assistance and financials.

·           Installed clean water diversions along the feedlot on his own

·           Has a three paddock rotational grazing system on his pasture that is used for rotating the cattle.


            In addition, while Leonard and Jackie both do an outstanding job of being good stewards of the soil and water, they both project a positive public image of agriculture by being active in their community. Leonard served on the Elk River Watershed Association Board for six years. The Popp’s are also currently working with the MN Department of Health to test for nitrates in two dug wells found on their property. The Popp’s have also hosted an annual “Farm Days” event the past couple years where they invite family, friends, and neighbors to demonstrate how farming was done in the past with different old restored machinery Leonard has rebuilt.

            The Popp family provides a prime example of what it takes to be a farm family and conservationists at the same time. The practices they have and continue to implement on their farm have helped preserve the cropland, protect soil and water quality, and maintain/increase productivity. In addition the Popp’s are eager to provide a positive image of farming and are willing to share their experiences with others. Benton SWCD and NRCS send a BIG Thank You to the Popp’s for all their conservational efforts.  Please join us in congratulating the Popp’s on being selected for this award.

Past OCC Winners

 2017 - Leonard and Jackie Popp (Graham Township)       

 2016 - Rick and Marlene Schlichting (Watab and Langola Township) - State Winners too!!   

2015 -  Ed, Kathy, and Eddy Popp (Langola Township)   

2014 - Mark & Pam Skroch (Langola Township)     

2013 - Jon Hansmeier (Glendorado Township)

2012 - Roy & Cindy Schneider & Family (Glendorado Township)

2011 - Guy Spence and Maureen Graber (Watab Township)

2010 - Lonnie Greener (Maywood Township)

2009 - Brian & Glen Kaschmitter (Mayhew Lake Township)

2002 - Chuck & Debbie Kaproth (St. George Township)

2001 - Rick & Donna Lovitz (Minden Township)

2000 - Larry & Esther Hackett (Graham Township)

1999 - John & Betty Mastey (Alberta Township)
1998 - Clarence & Jeanice Adelman (St. George Township)
1997 - Doug & Lori Lezer (Gilmanton Township)
1996 - Mike, Lynda & Muriel Gans (Graham Township)
1995 - Tim & Carol Wruck & Sons (Alberta Township)
1994 - Joe & Theresa Jordan (Glendorado Township)
1993 - Kevin & Lora Lee Adelman (St. George Township)
1992 - Alvin & Elaine Kloss (E. Langola Township)
1991 - Joe & Claudette Czeck, Mark & Shelly Czeck (Gilmanton Township)
1990 - Rice Sportsmen's Club
*Before 1990, the award was known as the Benton County Star Conservation Farmers
1989 - John & Dawn Linkert (Mayhew Lake Township)
1988 - John & Phyliss Kaproth (St. George Township)
1987 - Sylvester & Elaine Krueger (Mayhew Lake Township)
1986 - Raymond & Clarence Bromenschenkel (Minden Township)
1985 - Russel & Sandy Studenski (Mayhew Lake Township)
1984 - Robert & Mary Carlson (Maywood Township)
1983 - Raymond & Evelyn Beehler (Gilmanton Township)
1982 - Robert & Janet Abfalter (St. George Township)
1981 - Pete Winkelman & Sons (Glendorado Township)
1980 - Larry & Loris VanHooser (Alberta Township)
1979 - Bruce Olsen (Graham Township)
1978 - Ken Neeser (Minden Township)
1977 - Al Gapinski (Gilmanton Township)
1976 - Ernie Haehnel (Sauk Rapids & Watab Townships)
1975 - Tom Blissenbach (Mayhew Lake Township)
1974 - John Gans (Graham Township)
1973 - Zwick Bros. (Sauk Rapids Township)
1972 - Orville Mielke (Sauk Rapids Township)
1970 - Edman Lezer (Gilmanton Township)
1969 - Lloyd Rudnitski (Alberta Township)
1968 - Al Bechtold (Mayhew Lake Township)
1967 - Alfred Studanski (Mayhew Lake Township)
1966 - Arthur Uhing (Langola Township)
1965 - WM. Krauel (Granite Ledge Township)
1964 - WM. Kranz (Alberta Township)
1963 - Kevin Latterell (St. George Township)
1962 - Art Studenski (Mayhew Lake Township)
1961 - Leo Tracy (St. George Township)
1960 - Roy Weigenant (Graham Township)
1959 - Jerome Lubbesmeier (Mayhew Lake Township)
1958 - Jim Latterrell (Good Year) (St. George Township)
1957 - Conrad Emmerich (Glendorado Township)
1956 - Ed Neeser (Minden Township)
1955 - Elmer & Clarence Ruhoff (Gilmanton & St. George Townships)
1954 - Henry Frerich (Watab Township)
1953 - Ernest Foss (Graham Township)
1952 - Ronald Vierkant (Minden Township)
1951 - Tony Ebnet (Minden Township)
1950 - Jess Jacobsen (St. George Township)
1949 - Donald Talbert (Minden Township)