Local farmers Brad and Randy Lange are again in the spotlight for their conservation efforts.
At the California Farm Bureau's annual meeting Monday, the two brothers received the first-ever Leopold Conservation Award, which comes with a check for $10,000.
Brad Lange said the brothers would use the prize money for more habitat restoration on their land.
Farming nearly 6,500 acres of vineyards along the Mokelumne River, the Lange brothers take several approaches to conservation. Their practices include: using natural predators to combat pests; using sprayers that reduce chemical use by 50 percent and water use ten-fold; and installing solar power for their vineyard operations and farmhouse.
"The environmental stewardship frame of mind allows us to think outside the box to find creative solutions that can be mutually beneficial to our ecosystem and to our bottom line," said Brad Lange, co-owner of the LangeTwins Wine Estates, "Not to mention the priceless benefit of conserving the environment for future farming generations."
The Leopold Conservation Award was presented by Sand County Foundation, a group dedicated to working with private landowners to improve and restore natural habitat on their land.
The other two California finalists, Prather Ranch of Shasta County and V6 Ranch of Monterey County, received $1,000 prizes.
Expert evaluators toured the operations of all three finalists to understand the environmental and economic benefits of the various conservation practices, and a Blue Ribbon panel of experts chose the final award winner.
"The Langes and all of the Leopold Conservation Award nominees demonstrate that California farmers and ranchers play a crucial role in protecting the health of the environment and providing habitat for wildlife," said Ashley Boren, Executive Director of Sustainable Conservation. "With more than half of California land in private hands, their work is a win for wildlife, humans and the economy."
Conservation in farmingBrad and Randy Lange are third-generation winegrape growers on their 6,500 acre vineyard near Lodi. Building on the efforts of their father, which began in the 1940s, the Lange brothers' approach today includes:
• Restoring riparian habitat along the Mokelumne River.
• Minimizing the use of harmful and costly pesticides by pioneering new ways to combat pests with natural predators.
• Installing solar power for their vineyard operations and farmhouse.
• Building a winery that incorporates energy-efficient lighting, sanitation methods that employ ozone instead of chlorine and an advanced processing system to treat wastewater generated during the winemaking process.
Source: Sand County Foundation.
Who is Aldo Leopold?The Leopold Conservation award was named after Aldo Leopold, who wrote "A Sand County Almanac."
The book, published in 1949 a year after Leopold died in 1948, called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. The development of a land ethic was, he wrote, "an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity."
The Sand County Foundation presents the award to a private landowner who exemplifies the spirit of this land ethic. The Leopold Conservation Award is currently presented in six states: California, Colorado, Texas Nebraska, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Source: Sand County Foundation.
First published: Tuesday, December 5, 2006