Lewis man wins Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture

Ag/Outdoor, News

February 28th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A Cass County man is set to receive a $1,000 cash award for his work in sustainable agriculture. Bernie Havlovic, of Lewis, will receive recognition and the 2011 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture award during a ceremony Thursday, March 1st, in Ames. Havlovic is the superintendent of two Research and Demonstration (R&D) farms, the Armstrong ISU R&D Farm near Lewis, and the Neely-Kinyon R&D Farm in Adair County, south of Greenfield. He’s conducted agricultural research since the 1970’s, but has been involved in farming since childhood, while growing up in east-central Nebraska. Havlovic was the ninth out of 14 children born to his parents. He says his siblings helped out with the farming activities, but the opportunities to farm on his own were limited, so he went to graduate from ISU and work for the University’s Agronomy Department before moving on the work in the Research Farm system. 

He says that gave him an opportunity to farm, and get a better understanding of how crops grow and what affects their growth. He says he’s able to turn that knowledge around and show visitors to the research farms how new practices foster productivity in farming, and, provide an education to a wide variety of people. That includes “Master Gardeners,” and school children. Havlovic says interest in horticulture has really grown over the years, and blossomed from the simple “Green Thumb” gardener, to people who grow grapes for locally produced wine, and to those who use the “High Tunnel” structures to earn a living growing specialty crops. He says one of the latest special products being used in agricultural, is a material called “Bio-char,” which is a centuries old charcoal product created by a process known as “pryrolysis.”   Havlovic says it’s a material designed to make the soil more usable and sustainable. 

Havlovic and Michael Natvig, who owns a 420-acre organic farm in eastern Iowa’s Howard County, will share the Spencer Award for their efforts in developing sustainable farming practices and enhancing the stability of family farms, during the quarterly meeting of the Leopold Center Advisory Board, in Ames. The presentation of those awards will take place at around 11:30-a.m. Thursday, at the Hilton Garden Inn. The award, which was established in 2001 by an endowment from the Spencer family, was named in honor of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed near Sioux County, for 40-years. Learn more about the award at www.leopold.iastate.edu/spencer-award.