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Spencer award goes to North Iowa CSA

By Staff | Dec 17, 2012

Jan Tibbey and Tim Landgraf operate One Step at a Time Gardens, in Belmond, a community supported agriculture venture. They will receive the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture on Jan. 11.

AMES (PFI) – The owners of a Community Supported Agriculture enterprise in northern Iowa have been chosen as the 2012 recipients of the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture.

Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf, who operate One Step at a Time Gardens, near Kanawha, in Hancock County, will receive the award from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture on Jan. 11.

The presentation will take place during annual conference activities of Practical Farmers of Iowa, where Landgraf currently serves as president.

The Spencer Award honors farmers, teachers and researchers who have made a significant contribution to the ecological and economic stability of Iowa’s family farms. It has been presented annually by the Leopold Center and includes a $1,000 cash prize from an endowment established by the family of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed near Sioux City for 40 years.

“The Spencers believed that is the obligation of each generation to leave the world a healthier and better place for the next generation, and our 2012 recipients certainly practice those beliefs in how they manage their land,” said Leopold Center Director Mark Rasmussen.

Libbey and Landgraf own 132 acres of rolling glacial moraine adjacent to East Twin Lake, a natural, glacial wetland and upland woods complex. They raise vegetables on nine acres and in two high-tunnel greenhouses. In addition to serving their 150 CSA members, Libbey and Landgraf sell their products via direct sale to regional wholesale operations. A pastured-poultry operation is incorporated into the crop rotation, producing about 650 chickens each summer.

They manage cover crops and use composted animal manures, diverse crop rotations, shallow cultivation, mulching and grass pathways. Since moving to the farm in 1990, they have added 45 acres of permanent cover, including prairie grasses and flowers, shrubs, trees and restored wetlands. They established their CSA operation in 1996 and began farming full-time in 2002.

They also have participated in on-farm research through PFI and the Organic Agriculture and Horticulture programs at Iowa State University. Projects have included cover crops, poultry feed efficiencies, broccoli and edamame trials and pollinator assessment and identification.

Landgraf has served on the PFI board of directors since 2006 and has been president since 2009. Libbey has been a leader in numerous community groups including the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture, Healthy Harvest of North Iowa and the North Iowa Farmers Market.

Landgraf worked as a manufacturing engineer for many years at Eaton Corporation.

Libbey has an animal ecology degree from Iowa State University and worked for the Wright County Conservation Board as a naturalist.

They have two children, a daughter at Luther College in Decorah, and a son who is an agricultural engineer for Case New Holland.

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