My friend of many years, Helen Gunderson, has been awarded the first Farmland Owner Award from the Practical Farmers of Iowa. This award is given to property owners who are focused on the long-term health of their land, water and soil. It’s appropriate for Helen, who truly values and appreciates the many ways Iowa provides food and sustenance for not only people but also the entire food chain. For example, her home in Ames is an amazing example of how a small postage stamp can nurture fruit, nuts, chickens, vegetables and pollinators. She is also renting some of her farmland in Pocahontas County to a young, woman farmer who is growing organic corn.
In 2011, Helen donated 60 acres of a remnant prairie and pasture, now called the DeElda Heritage Area, to Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. She could have decided to plow the land up as much as possible, but Helen appreciates that the land also needs to provide resources for birds, wildlife, pollinators, clean water and the human spirit. She trusts that INHF will look after the prairie and continue to work with the organic farmer, who is now our neighbor.
Kudos to PFI for recognizing Helen and her vision for the future that includes growing local food, supporting our young farmers who are breaking the mold established by leaders since the ‘50s, and for understanding that the land must be shared with a host of other species that inhabit this planet with us humans.
-Lisa Hein, INHF Program and Planning Director
Helen is the first recipient of the award from Practical Farmer of Iowa, co-sponsored by Women, Food and Agriculture Network and the Drake University Agricultural Law Center. This award recognizes non-operator land owners who manage their land to achieve sustainable farm businesses, improve soil quality and productivity, and foster rural communities and new farmers.
She will be recognized at Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2014 annual conference.