Meri Kay and Henry Shepard of La Porte City, representing Black Hawk and Benton counties, were honored with an Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award during the Iowa State Fair in August. The award is a joint effort between the Office of the Governor, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to recognize the efforts of Iowa’s farmers as environmental leaders committed to health soils and improved water quality.

“This award seeks to recognize the exemplary voluntary actions of farmers to improve and protect the environment and natural resources of our state,” Governor Reynolds said. 

“It also encourages other farmers to follow in their footsteps by building success upon success.”

“Iowa is a national leader in conservation and water quality efforts,” Secretary Northey said. 

“These awards are an opportunity to recognize the farmers who are leading the way and highlight the significant investment they are making to better care for our air, soil and water.”

“We are honored to take part in recognizing some of Iowa’s best farmers who instill common practices to protect our natural resources,” Director Gipp said. 

“We hope that by recognizing the great work these farmers are doing, it will encourage others to follow suit and help protect the environment.”

Winners were presented a certificate as well as a yard sign donated by Monsanto and a commemorative program provided by the Iowa Ag Water Alliance. Hagie Manufacturing sponsored a recognition luncheon following the ceremony. Bob Quinn from WHO served as the Master of Ceremony. All winners were chosen by a selection group representing both agricultural and conservation groups.

Farm Profile: Henry and Meri Kay Shepard

Black Hawk and Benton Counties 

Operation: Farming for 40 years. 230 acres are planted in corn, 230 are acres planted in soybeans and roughly 40 acres are in set aside programs like quail buffers, pollinator habitat and grassed waterways. 

“There is only so much soil out there and we do not want to lose what can be used by future generations. We try to do the right things and hope to leave the ground better then we found.” 

Practices Non-Cost Share – Henry and Meri Kay farm a corn-soybean rotation and began their no-till operation in the mid-1980s. They have been using variable applications of fertilizer, based on soil tests, for several years. They have split-applied their nitrogen with spring anhydrous, a 28% pre-plant, and a late season urea application for about six years. They also utilize nitrification inhibitors in conjunction with their anhydrous and urea applications. 

Cost-Share – Henry and Meri Kay have used cost share programs including state cost share, CRP, CSP, EQIP and funding through the Miller Creek Water Quality Improvement Project to install a number of practices. Over the past several years, they have installed a combination of terraces, grassed waterways, buffer strips and pollinator habitats in order to control erosion and runoff concerns. Cover crops have become an important practice in their operation since 2014. In 2016, they seeded all the crop acres to a cover crop! They also utilized grant funds to install saturated buffer. 

Leadership – Henry has served as a member of the Miller Creek Advisory Council since 2014. Henry and Meri Kay are recipients of Black Hawk SWCD’s Conservation Farmer of the Year Award, hosted a tour of WQI practices for Governor Reynolds. In 2017, Henry Shepard hosted a tour and gave a presentation to approximately 60 Soil and Water Conservation Society members at their saturated buffer as well. Both Henry and Meri Kay share their message of conservation to their friends, neighbors and fellow farmers.