National conservation award to Hardin Township farmer

David Ausberger of Jefferson was honored as the national winner of the Conservation Legacy Award by the American Soybean Association (ASA) at the Commodity Classic in San Antonio, TX, March 1.

Jim Call (left), chairman of the United Soybean Board presents David Ausberger the Conservation Legacy Award. Also pictured is LeeAnna Ausberger and American Soybean Association president Ray Gaesser (right). Photo by Sandra Martin | American Soybean Association
Jim Call (left), chairman of the United Soybean Board presents David Ausberger the Conservation Legacy Award. Also pictured is LeeAnna Ausberger and American Soybean Association president Ray Gaesser (right). Photo by Sandra Martin | American Soybean Association

Ausberger is a fifth generation Greene County farmer who farms a total of about 1,700 acres in several locations, most of them in Hardin Township. He is the son of Bob and Joyce Ausberger. The “home farm” is a Century Farm in Hardin Township. He called the award “a nice recognition.”

Ausberger received the state Conservation Legacy Award and the Midwest Regional Legacy Award to be nominated for the national award.

He is widely known for his conservation practices. He uses no-till, which he describes as “never till,” and expansive cover cropping. He promotes cover cropping as a way better to manage soil and water quality, disease, weeds and insects.

Ausberger uses a compost material he said not many farmers use. He blends poultry litter from a nearby poultry operation with waste wood chips from the city of Jefferson’s compost site at Daubendiek Park. He explained that he blends the poultry litter and wood chips and turns it several times as it ferments “After a while it gets a good, earthy smell,” he said.

The compost blend, which he spreads on his fields, has nutrients and bacteria that are beneficial to the soil, he explained.  “There are only a few farmers who do something like this,” he said. “Composting is nothing new. Gardeners do it all the time, but this is on a larger scale.”

“We’ve enjoyed the relationship we’ve had with the city in allowing us to use the excess wood chips,” he added.

“David is a shining example of the innovation that happens every day on soybean farms across the country. He isn’t simply maintaining the environmental quality of his land, he is improving it,” ASA president Ray Gaesser of Iowa stated in an ASA press release. “The unique work that David is doing reaches far beyond his farm, and will help other farmers in their efforts to continue productive operations while remaining excellent stewards of the land.”

A trophy and an expense-paid trip to San Antonio for him and his wife LeeAnna are the tangible parts of the award. A chance to talk about farmers’ efforts in conservation is the intangible part. “Everybody is doing better than they were 10 years ago,” he said. “Awards like this give us a chance to talk about the good things we’re doing. Farmers are too busy farming to blow our own horns. There are some other people who do it, but they aren’t always accurate. This gives us an opportunity to talk about what farmers do right, about the things they do that are good business and good for the environment.”

Ausberger earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. He returned to Greene County and farming in 1991. He said he has worked some with agriculturalists at Iowa State University, but more of his work has been with the Iowa Soybean Association and that group’s On-Farm Network. Ausberger is a certified conservation farmer, sharing his advanced conservation measures with other farmers in the area through more than 40 hours of classroom and field experience each year.

“Conservation is a legacy that goes both forward and backward for me and my family,” Ausberger stated in the ASA press release. “It is a way to preserve the land for my kids, or somebody else’s kids, who may be farming it in the future. It is also a way to honor my dad’s ideals and commitment. Whether my kids and their children are walking this ground or live a thousand miles away when they grow up, I hope they do not have to worry about the water they drink or the air they breathe.”

Ausberger is not the first Greene County farmer to receive the national award. James O. Andrew was recognized with the national Conservation Legacy Award in 2007.

The award program is sponsored by BASF, Monsanto, the United Soybean Board and Corn and Soybean Digest.

The Commodity Classic is hosted by the ASA, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, and the National Sorghum Producers.

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