America, there are farmers for whom protecting
agricultural land is more than a worthwhile goal—it's a lifelong commitment. American Farmland
Trust was proud to present the fourth annual $10,000
Steward of the Land Award to Mike Yoder for his
work in stopping the loss of productive farmland
and demonstrating farming practices that lead
to a healthy environment.
Honoring the memory of Peggy McGrath Rockefeller, the award recognizes the inspiration and deep personal commitment that Mrs. Rockefeller provided as a founding board member of AFT.
A Lifetime in Agriculture
Dairyman Mike Yoder was born and raised on a dairy farm in Elkhart County, Indiana, and has spent a lifetime devoted to agriculture. When an accident forced the closing of his father's farm, Mike made it his dream to revitalize the farm and preserve it for future generations. With his wife, Rhonda, and daughters Lindsay and Tasha, Mike has been running his family farm since 1979—and working hard to set an example for other Indiana farmers.
A Farm to Be Proud Of
It is obvious to the observer that Mike considers his 850 acres of land his most precious resource. His grass-based dairy, with more than 450 cows, is a living example of his commitment to the environment. He has utilized no-till farming for more than a decade on the sandy soils of his farm, significantly reducing soil erosion. His careful management of cover crops and mulch tillage further abate the effects of wind and rain. Mike is just as careful with what he puts into the soil, with a fully modernized waste structure and low-application nutrient management plan complementing one another to ensure that the farm is a benefit to its surroundings.
Leadership By Example
Just as he sets an example by caring for his land, Mike also shows great leadership in preserving it for future generations. As South Bend's growing suburbs threaten to wipe out hundreds of farms, Mike has worked proactively to fight sprawling development. Rather than wait for sprawl to come to his doorstep, he has coordinated farmers, government, citizens and businesses to make Elkhart County a model for farmland preservation. Through zoning changes, tax incentives for farmers and leadership of the new Wood-Land-Lakes land trust, Mike Yoder has ensured the future of production agriculture in Elkhart County—and set an example to be followed by individuals and communities nationwide.
© Photo: Andy Manis