Conservation Efforts

By Caroline van Schaik, Driftless Region coordinator

Soils Conference notables

Maybe the packed room of 200 attendees was giddy with togetherness. Maybe the message of community and accountability has found its day. Maybe climate change and corporate greed have stomped one step too many on the hand that pays the bills. Maybe who knows why the Drake University Agriculture Law Center event (Nov. 17, 2021) gave clear voice to change on the Iowa landscape starting from the bottom up. I don’t see proceeds listed as of late November – the program with speakers can be viewed HERE!

Here are some nuggets from the day:

* A theme of community- farmer- and citizen-level action versus top down dictates permeated presentations alongside the theory that top buy-in has a critical role in especially marketing and sometimes financial incentives for new practices.

* There were standing ovations for a condemnation of voluntary conservation by farmers and for an innovative conservation easement for soil health (and the land that successfully sold to local buyers with the easement in place).

* Agricultural regulations – the inevitable need, a collective timidity to demand – provided a recurring theme.

* A case was made for two different but complementary approaches to water quality research. Volunteer citizen scientists become active water advocates and change the culture of science even as prescriptive water research produces more measurable change in water health.

* And yes, that “great clamoring” to return people to their local waters through fun and play, as and a group of conservationists who meet weekly to figure out how to imbue their passion for Iowa resources with life and meaning to all. Pat Boddy and Christine Curry offered a spirited rendition of the why and how of the group’s “Soul, Soil, SPARK!” theme. They took the message into the night at a benefit dinner that evening that also featured Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from Storm Lake, IA.  Please see the Iowa Report for details of the evening and pictures.


At the Drake Soil Conference 2021 with Sparks… exemplified by Pat Boddy’s introduction to the ICON Water Trails project. Photo by: Chris Henning


The Iowa-based Panora Conservation Chapter of the Izaak Walton League hosted a benefit dinner for the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI). It was a festive event after a day of hope and blunt assessment of the state of Iowa soils at Drake University. Des Moines chapter president Doug Pooch (left) and chapter founding member/event organizer/UMRI staff Christine Curry (right) helped lead the evening that included impromptu auctioneering by retired Drake University Agriculture Law Center director Neil Hamilton, a candid political check by Pulitzer Prize journalist Art Cullen, and the explanation behind the event’s theme of “Soul, Soil, SPARK!” Photo by Caroline van Schaik


The impromptu auctioneering by retired Drake University Agriculture Law Center director Neil Hamilton. Photo by: Bud Hartley

Graphics by: Mindy Alvarez

Graphics by: Mindy Alvarez

Graphics by: Mindy Alvarez