A man from southwest Iowa’s Cass County is being recognized for his decades of dedication to conservation in agriculture. Bernie Havlovic, of Lewis, will be awarded the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames on Thursday (March 1st).

 Havlovic has done agricultural research since the 1970s and grew up on a farm in east-central Nebraska, the ninth out of 14 children.

“Coming from that large of a family, the opportunities to farm were limited so I went on to college at Iowa State,” Havlovic says. “After college, I started working for the university. First, I started out working for the Agronomy Department and then I had the opportunity to get into the outlying research farm system.”

Havlovic is superintendent of two research and demonstration (R&D) farms: the Armstrong I.S.U. R&D Farm near Lewis and the Neely-Kinyon R&D Farm in Adair County, south of Greenfield. He says it gave him an opportunity to 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.

He teaches seminars, classes and “master gardener” workshops and gets to educate everyone from school children to foreign visitors.

Havlovic says interest in horticulture has grown over the years and blossomed from the simple “green thumb” gardener to people who grow grapes for locally-produced wine. There are also those who use “high tunnel” structures to earn a living growing specialty crops, which can include full-time or part-time efforts.

Part-time could mean just an acre or two of a corn/soybean farm that’s taken to a farmers market on weekends or it could be a smaller farm that’s devoted to a niche crop like grapes. 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 bio-char is designed to make the soil more usable and sustainable. He will be recognized during the quarterly meeting of the Leopold Center Advisory Board in Ames. The award honors Norman and Margaretha Spencer who farmed near Sioux County for 40 years. Learn more about the award at “www.leopold.iastate.edu/spencer-award“.

By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic