Cope Grass Farm of Truxton, located in Montgomery County (between Columbia and St. Louis in east-central Missouri) has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award®.
The award honors farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who go above and beyond to manage soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on working land.
“In agriculture, our greatest resource is the land, and as farmers, it is our duty to be good stewards of that land for future generations,” said Aaron Porter, chairman of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. “Sustainability is one of the top priorities for our organization, and it’s outstanding to see the spotlight on farm families who are truly living the example of stewardship.”
Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states.
Given in honor of conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes landowners whose dedication to environmental improvement inspires others. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold advocated for “a land ethic,” an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.
“Leopold Conservation Award recipients are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO. “Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber.”
Harry Cope and his family received the award during the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture in Osage Beach on Nov. 17.
An independent panel of agriculture and conservation leaders reviewed the applications for the award, which comes with a $10,000 cash prize.
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Cope family,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT, we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”
Cope Grass Farm was established in 1990 with a focus on rotational grazing cattle, sheep and hogs. Today, it’s a partnership between Harry and his daughter Sabrina Cope who heads up marketing for the farm.
A recent audit by the National Audubon Society documented more than 100 species of birds at Cope Grass Farm, one of just seven Missouri farms to receive Audubon’s “Bird Friendly Beef” certification. The audit showed a 30 percent increase in bird species in just three years, including the Henslow’s Sparrow, a species in population decline.
The Leopold Conservation Award Program in Missouri is made possible thanks to the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Sand County Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, FCS Financial, MFA, Inc., Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Fertilizer Control Board, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Missouri Soil and Water Conservation Program, Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, The Nature Conservancy in Missouri, and McDonald’s.