California Walnut Farmer Links Environmental Stewardship with Economic Success

Published 12/03/07

Craig McNamara Recieves the Leopold Conservation AwardCalifornia walnut farmer Craig McNamara has received the 2007 Leopold Conservation Award for exemplary environmental stewardship from Sand County Foundation, California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation.

"Craig McNamara has shown tremendous leadership weaving conservation principles into his farming operations, said A.G. Kawamura, Secretary, California Department of Food & Agriculture and a judge for the Leopold Conservation Award.

"There is no doubt that all California farmers and ranchers can be as successful in protecting the environment as they are in feeding the world."

Craig McNamara's 450-acre Sierra Orchards is a diversified farming operation in Yolo County that demonstrates both stewardship and prosperity, integrating habitat conserving practices with bottom line results. His proactive investments have significantly enhanced the watershed on his land, improved water quality downstream and established thriving wildlife habitat. McNamara is also helping high school students become lifelong learners, overcome barriers to change, develop leadership skills and build greater human and social capital in their communities through the Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL). Founded in 1993, the program reaches more than 2,000 California students annually, teaching them about sustainable agriculture first-hand.

Sierra Orchard's organic walnut production and sales have steadily increased, demonstrating the integral relationship between economic success and sustained conservation. Craig McNamara utilizes tried-and-true organic farming practices as well as the most recent technological advances. He has removed native plants, built tail water ponds, installed sediment traps and added hedgerow plantings to help ensure that no irrigated or natural water is wasted. He hangs more than 40,000 pheromone devices each year for pest control. He even uses composted table scraps from San Francisco restaurants as fertilizer.

"California farmers and ranchers are in a unique and powerful position to care for the state's natural resources and enhance wildlife habitat in cost-effective ways," said Ben Higgins, State Director, USDA Rural Development and a judge for the Leopold Conservation Award.

"The Leopold Conservation Award highlights the kind of proactive, voluntary conservation activities that are keeping California healthy, beautiful and economically strong."

The other 2007 finalists across California were:

  • • Prather Ranch, Jim, Mary, and James Rickert - Shasta, Calif. (Shasta County)
  • • V6 Ranch, Jack Varian - Parkfield, Calif. (Monterey and Fresno counties)
  • • Zylstra Dairy, Andy Zylstra - Turlock, Calif. (Stanislaus County)

Named in honor of world-renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award carries a $10,000 cash award. In 2007, Sand County Foundation will present Leopold Conservation Awards in six states to private landowners who practice exemplary land stewardship and management.

"We view the Leopold Conservation Award as an important investment in private lands conservation," said Dr. Brent Haglund, Sand County Foundation President. "The $10,000 that accompanies the award wouldn't go very far as a direct investment in a conservation project. But by using it to highlight Craig McNamara's outstanding stewardship, we indirectly support hundreds of thousands in voluntary improvements by other private landowners who make measurable and lasting improvements to land, water quality and wildlife habitat."

The Leopold Conservation Award is presented to: recognize extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation on the land of exemplary private landowners; inspire countless other landowners in their own communities through these examples; and showcase conservation leaders in the agriculture community to people outside of agriculture. In 2007, the award was also presented in California, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah.

In California, Sand County Foundation presents its Leopold Conservation Award in partnership with Sustainable Conservation and California Farm Bureau Federation. It is supported by S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, Audubon California, California Waterfowl Association, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and The Trust for Public Land, as well as media sponsors Capital Press Agriculture Weekly and Ag Alert.

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