A Tenacious Leader

Jimmy Emmons talking to producers about soil health at a recent field day in Hugo, Okla. (Photo by Sarah Blaney)

Jimmy Emmons receives the Leopold Conservation Award
By Chris Cox and Sarah Blaney

In Oklahoma, conservation plays a key role in just about every farming and ranching operation. Soil health and water conservation practices help Oklahomans maximize their land while also regenerating the land’s natural resources.

Several people in Oklahoma have been at the forefront of conservation in the state. However, only one has been recognized as a Leopold Conservation Award winner and that is Jimmy Emmons from Leedey, Okla. Emmons and his wife, Ginger, farm and run cattle on land that has been in his family since 1926.

In western Oklahoma where rain is scarce, and water is a precious commodity, Emmons realized he needed to make changes to his operation to maximize his natural resources. Emmons started incorporating no-till farming practices as early as 1995 and now has a complete no-till operation. It’s that kind of thinking and long-term commitment to conservation that landed Emmons the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award.

Since 2003, the Leopold Conservation Award is given out annually by the Sand County Foundation to “agricultural landowners actively committed to a land ethic.” According to the Sand County Foundation website, the award recognizes people who show “extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation, inspire other landowners through their example and help the general public understand the vital role private landowners can and do play in conservation success.”

Emmons exemplifies those qualifications.

“Jimmy and Ginger Emmons provide a great example of how conservation practices can improve the environment and a farmer’s or rancher’s bottom line,” said Leopold Conservation Award program director Lance Irving. “Wildlife and water quality are benefiting from their actions while the profitability of the Emmons’ farm has increased.

“The Emmons were early adopters of practices such as pollinator strips and companion crops, and have diversified to adapt to changing weather and market conditions. In addition to doing wonderful things on the farm, Jimmy and Ginger bring the message of conservation to many people. Jimmy’s leadership in several organizations in addition to field days and hosting visitors from literally all over the world showcases the commitment to conservation.”

Read the May issue to learn more!