Les Seiler from Fayette in Fulton County was named the National Conservation Legacy Award winner at the annual American Soybean Association Awards Celebration event during Commodity Classic on March 10, 2023.
At the event, four regional winners were recognized in the extremely competitive program and Seiler was announced as the overall national winner. The National Conservation Legacy Award is designed to recognize the outstanding environmental and conservation achievements of soybean farmers, which help produce more sustainable U.S. soybeans. A national selection committee, composed of soybean farmers, conservationists, agronomists and natural resource professionals, evaluated nominations based on each farmer’s environmental and economic program. The program is sponsored by ASA, BASF, Bayer, Nutrien, the United Soybean Board/Soy Checkoff and Valent USA.
Seiler Farms is part of the Western Lake Erie Basin, where Les and his brother, Jerry, have implemented a suite of farming practices to help mitigate soil loss and maximize soil health.
“We have so much soil erosion because we have a lot of poor soil health, and we can’t infiltrate water on the land anymore,” Les said. “We’ve seen the need to do something different besides the conventional farming practices of moldboard plowing and a lot of tillage.”
He recalls the Toledo water crisis of 2014, in which several people had no access to water for two days because of algal blooms on Lake Erie. He realized during that event he didn’t want to be a contributing factor to people being without water.
“I don’t think there should be anybody anywhere in the world who wonders where their next glass of water is coming from, or if water is going to be an issue,” Les said. “I hope someday that somebody says, ‘Well, I hope that guy made a difference.’ I don’t want to be the one who didn’t realize the importance of that.”
Jerry said the farm has a 40-year history with no-till, 15 years of cover crops and extensive use of filter strips to manage water, keep the soil on the farm and build up soil health. They have seen a huge improvement in the water infiltration on the farm. When there is runoff, the water is clear.
“Les is a big advocate for soil health. He’s really been pushing that and trying to use only things that promote soil health and are not detrimental to it,” Jerry said. “Back in the 80s when we first started taking over the farm, we had gullies and brown water in the creek. We just hated seeing that and we started implementing filter strips and waterways. Then we gradually started no-tilling and then using cover crops. Now we’re planting all green and keeping something growing in the field as long as possible, even in the winter. We’ve got around 40 different soil types and I think our fields are more uniform and better as we build the soil health.”