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Conservation Pays Off for Dairy Producer

02:46AM Jan 06, 2013
p25 Conservation Pays

California dairy producer wins Leopold Conservation Award

For the first time, a dairy producer has won the Leopold Conservation Award in California.

Dino Giacomazzi says it was "a proud moment and an immense honor" when he accepted the award Dec. 3 at the California Farm Bureau Federation’s (CFBF) annual meeting in Pasadena, Calif. CFBF, Sustainable Conservation and Sand County Foundation presented Giacomazzi with a Leopold crystal and $10,000.

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The award is named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. It’s presented annually in eight states to private landowners who practice exemplary land stewardship and management.

"I especially appreciate the award because it was given to me for doing what I’m supposed to be doing: finding ways to make my farm viable," Giacomazzi says. "Many times in the past, the award has been given to people who are engaged in habitat preservation and wildlife restoration. To give it to a dairy producer means that they recognize that modern agricultural practices are compatible with the environment and that using technology enables us to use less resources to achieve conservation."

Giacomazzi, who was nominated for the award by Western United Dairymen, participated in one of the first conservation tillage trials in California in 2004. Today, he practices conservation tillage on 450 acres of corn and wheat on his 900-acre farm near Hanford, Calif. The dairy, which has been in his family’s hands since 1893, milks 900 cows. The farm’s remaining acreage is planted to non-tilled alfalfa.

"Using conservation tillage has reduced dust, diesel emissions, labor and equipment use," he says.

Giacomazzi has been a leader in communicating the benefits of conservation tillage to other dairy producers. He uses social media and hosts field days at his farm to share his knowledge. His column "Tech Talk" in Dairy Today focuses on new farm technologies.

"Dino Giacomazzi has committed himself to the production of not only quality dairy products but also quality soil, water and air," says Brent Haglund, president of Sand County Foundation. "He is also representative of a new breed of producers who believe strongly in the power of the story of farming, choosing to promote agriculture and conservation through traditional and modern communications methods."

Ever since Giacomazzi started thinking about conservation as a practice, he has been motivated by the reward "of leaving this farm for my son in better condition than my father left it for me.
"It isn’t as much a desire as an obligation, since my father, grandfather and great-grandfather did that for me," Giacomazzi says. "Conservation farming is really the only way I know how to do it: adapt to change, preserve the land, try to make money and move the family farm forward."

Giacomazzi is looking at other conservation efforts, especially regarding dairy manure. "There has to be a way for dairies to make money with manure," he says. "I don’t know what it is, but I’m thinking about it."