Iowa couple recognized with Citizenship Award

Farm and Food

Mark Tjelmeland’s interest in conservation can be traced back to his childhood when his mother taught him about topsoil, subsoil, and why topsoil depth differed between locations on his family’s farm. Through school and experiences like these, Mark has been committed to conservation and climate efforts ever since.

He and his wife, Connie, have been farming for almost four decades, and haven’t been afraid to try new things in their operation. Over the years, they have prioritized natural resources and building their climate resiliency through various conservation practices.

Along with extended rotation, they have established 5 acres of pollinator habitat with 70 species, seeded grassed waterways, done minimum tillage, conducted late spring nitrate testing, and side-dressed nitrogen on their corn, among other things.

“I am concerned about the ways that changing climate will affect my grandchildren and future generations,” Mark said. “I see conservation practices as a moral choice, but also a practical one.”

Due to their long-standing dedication to conservation, the Center for Rural Affairs has chosen Mark and Connie Tjemeland, of McCallsburg, Iowa, to receive its 2019 Citizenship Award.

The Citizenship Award is given to an individual or individuals who actively participate in the civic process for creating public policy, and who work closely with the Center to advance public policies that strengthen family farms, ranches, and rural communities.

Over the last few years, the couple has hosted numerous tours of their farm—including their solar panels, extended crop rotation, and prairie. The couple also hosted Center energy staff to discuss solar panels that power their farm. The information has been used in the Center’s policy writing and work.

“Mark and Connie have supported the Center’s policy work in numerous ways throughout the last several years,” said Johnathan Hladik, policy program director with the Center.

They also hosted a field tour and discussion on Mark’s experience with Conservation Stewardship Program through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

“Collaboration with local leaders such as Mark and Connie is essential to our work at the Center,” Johnathan said. “They have helped us advance key priorities through their thoughtful, unwavering, and effective advocacy.”

Mark encourages any farmer to reach out to the Center and other organizations to learn more about conservation, and how they can implement their own practices.

“Conservation practices have saved me money in the long run, and I wish more farmers were aware of how conservation practices could benefit their operations,” Mark said.

Learn more about the Tjelmelands and their operation in our blog from September 2019.