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Adcock named family farm champion

By Staff | Oct 5, 2014

LEIGH ADCOCK, the out-going president of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, will receive the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture in March 2015 through the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

GILBERT – Leigh Adcock, ramrod of her own cattle operation and a champion of Iowa family farming, will be officially recognized Iin March 2015 as one of two Iowans to receive the 2014 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture.

Adcock said farming sustainably is a staple in her ag core values and is something she hopes to see become more common.

“I believe the current agricultural model is unsustainable,” Adcock said, “and that small-scale diversified farmers are one key to improving the model.

“Women farmers are more likely to farm this way, and are entering agriculture as new farmers at a greater rate than men.

“We need to do all we can to help them learn and connect.”

The Spencer Award is given annually to individuals, recognizing farmers, teachers and researchers who have made significant contributions to the environmental and economic stability of Iowa’s family farms. It’s the longest-running award of its kind in Iowa.

Administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, Adcock is one of two Iowans to selected to receive the 2014 honors. Steve Berger, a pork producer from Wellman, is the other.

According to Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold center, an extraordinary pool of nominations this year and donors’ willingness made supporting two awards possible.

The Spencer Award was created by the family of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed near Sioux City. It carries a $1,000 cash prize.

Adcock is the outgoing director of the Iowa-based Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

“I am thrilled and honored to be chosen as a Spencer Award recipient,” said Adcock. “It was a wonderful send-off for my six years as director of Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

“WFAN has accomplished much since its birth in 1997, and I’m excited to see what impacts this amazing group of women in sustainable agriculture will have next.”

Adcock has been the executive director of WFAN since 2008 and prior to that, was a two-year board member for the organization.

She served from 2003-2007 as executive director for the Iowa Farmers Union.

With WFAN, Adcock said she was responsible for all communications and development activities, as well as writing and administering grants.

She supervised a full-time program coordinator, a part-time office manager and a variety of consultants and contractors.

WFAN was founded to serve as a regional network for women involved in all aspects of healthy food and farming with 2,000 members nationwide.

While the network is national, most programming work occurs in the upper Midwest and focuses on providing networking, information and leadership development opportunities to women farmers, landowners and food systems advocates.

During her time as executive director, Adcock said she helped expand WFAN’s scope to a national level, increasing membership and funding from under $30,000 to $250,000 per year and working with board and staff to create successful programs. This includes the Women Caring for the Land, a conservation program for women farmland owners; and Harvesting Our Potential, an on-farm apprenticeship program.

She is co-creator of the Plate to Politics project, a collaboration of WFAN, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service; and The White House Project, all designed to recruit and train more rural and farm women across the U.S. to seek public office from local posts to the White House.

Adcock grew up on a 360-acre conventional grain and beef cattle farm in northwest Iowa, which she owns with her mother.

Adcock graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1982 with a bachelor of arts degree in communications, a minor in journalism and completed graduate course work in public policy from UNI in 1990.

During her professional career, Adcock’s work has included television, radio, magazines, newspapers and public relations.

She has also done volunteer and paid work for environmental, social justice and sustainable agriculture organizations. These include the Sierra Club, PeaceLinks, Iowa Waste Reduction Center, Practical Farmers of Iowa and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

She served three years on the board of the Iowa Environmental Council.

Adcock lives northwest of Ames with her husband and two sons.

The Spencer Award presentation is being scheduled as part of the annual Iowa Water Conference to be held at ISU on March 2 and March 3, 2015.

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