Conservation Awards

Conservation awards have been given out over the years to deserving organizations and individuals that work hard to conserve our natural resources.  Awardees are recognized for their efforts in different categories such as conservation practices used on farmlands, educating the public, protecting natural habitats and wildlife, or devoting time to protecting lakes, rivers, and streams.

If you know of any organization or individual deserving of a conservation award, reach out to us so they can be recognized for their hard work and dedication.

Below are links to awardees over the years, including the current year.   Check out the links for any organizations affiliated with the awardees.

Past Awardees  

2023 Awardees

Pictured from left to right:
Emily Haluda, MAEAP Technician representing Hidden Acres-Conservation Farmer of the Year, Amy Huser of Camp Friedenswald-Recycling/Waste Management Award, Ashley Armstrong of Angel Acres-Conservation Educator of the Year, Brittney File of Magnolia Farms-Ag-Tourism Award, Bianca May-Forestry/Wildlife Stewardship Award, and Jennifer Miller-Volunteer of the Year
Recycling/Waste Management Award
Presented to Camp Friedenswald
In recognition of your superior efforts and dedication to waste reduction, recycling and sustainable purchasing. Nomination info and more details.
Conservation Farmer of the Year
Presented to Angel Acres
In recognition of your farm’s effort to preserve and enhance soil health, and your commitment to conservation in agriculture. Nomination info and more details.
Forestry/Wildlife Stewardship Award
Presented to Bianca May
In recognition of your woodlot improvements for both wildlife and conservation education programming. Nomination info and more details.
Conservation Educator of the Year
Presented to Hidden Acres Farm
In recognition of your excellent educational program engaging students and raising awareness of farming practices & animal management. Nomination info and more details.
Ag-Tourism Award
In recognition of your successful special event operation that celebrates local value-added agriculture and entrepreneur. Nomination info and more details.
Volunteer of the Year
Presented to Jennifer Miller
In recognition of your tremendous generosity of time and commitment to assisting our office with all things financial and sharing your pollinator & native plant expertise.
Congratulation to all and thankyou so much for your dedication and community involvement assisting with the improvement of Cass County’s natural resources.

2022 Awardees

2022 Conservation Farmer of the Year
Presented to  Eckler’s Produce Farms

2022 Shoreline Stewardship Award
Presented to Jake and Gretchen Young

2022 Conservation Business of the Year
Presented to Dussel’s Farm Market

2022 Board Member 15+ Years recognition
Presented to Scott Wyman

2022 Lifetime Volunteer Award
Presented to Helga Richards


2021 Awardees

2021 Conservation Farmer of the Year

Presented to Bennett Farms
In recognition of your successful pasture raised pork and poultry utilizing land stewardship practices respectful of soil conservation.

2021 Stewardship Award 

Presented to Partnership for MEANDRS
In recognition of your successful river stewardship projects led by strong partnerships and community volunteers.

2021 Educator of the Year – Dark Sky Advocate
Presented to Robert Parrish
In recognition of your superior efforts in raising appreciation for the night sky and dark sky conservation while promoting outdoor learning at the Dr. Lawless International Dark Sky Park and Michigan Dark Sky Preserve.

2020 Awardees

2020 Conservation Farmer of the Year
Presented to 
White Yarrow Farm
In recognition of your successful organically farmed CSA (community-supported agriculture) utilizing land stewardship practices respectful of soil conservation.
2020 Wildlife Stewardship Award
Presented to
Lake Milton Raptor Center
In recognition of your commitment to protect wildlife through wild bird rehabilitation and education. Your efforts build respect for birds and the need to protect the ecosystems where they live.
2019 Awardees
2019 Conservation Farmer of the Year
Presented to Cade Klein
In recognition of your enthusiasm toward implementing conservation-based changes on your farm and general promotion of MAEAP and land stewardship to protect Cass County’s environment.
2019 Conservation Educator of the Year
Presented to One World Center
In recognition of your superior efforts in training of volunteer teams in the areas of environmental education, protection and restoration of natural resources as well as garden farming and sustainability both abroad and here in Cass County. 

2019 Conservation Partner of the Year
Presented to Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC)
In recognition of your ongoing commitment to Cass County’s wild places through habitat restoration efforts at local SWMLC nature preserves, as well as promotion of the Jones Area Conservation Plan which raises awareness of the value of wildlife connectivity.

2019 Conservation Ambassador of the Year
Presented to Jim Kings
In recognition of your lifetime passion toward natural resource conservation, your growing commitment to lake health, your positive attitude and promotion of solutions citizens can employ, and your own volunteer efforts to improve water quality – all of which exemplify vital conservation leadership in our community. 
2018 Awardees

2018 Conservationist of the Year
Presented to Kenneth Kesson / Michigan DNR SW Region MDNR website

In recognition of your superior dedication & passion to conservation leadership and creation of habitat through native plantings in Cass County, Michigan.

The following are examples of his efforts:

  • Ken was instrumental in the completion and his efforts were integral to the outstanding success of both a 145 acre oak savanna restoration at the Walnut Farm Conservation Easement and a 60 acre tall-grass prairie restoration project at the Forked Lake Conservation Easement – Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy projects improving habitat in Newberg Township, Cass County, MI.
  • He continues to build partnerships for the SWMLC’s Jones Area Conservation Project that will have lasting impacts for wildlife as the corridor gains support.
  • We appreciate his on-going work with the Private Landowner Program (PLP). Residents have expressed gratitude for the wealth of knowledge and experience that he freely shares so they might have more success on their own properties. Since taking his position with the DNR, he has helped hundreds of landowners and put over a million dollars worth of conservation on the ground here in Southwest Michigan.
  • His dedication to maintaining and improving the Department of Natural Resource lands for quality game and non-game species is exemplary.
  • He has also strived to protect/restore habitat for threatened and endangered species throughout the region including an extensive number of plant species as well as the Federally protected Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, Karner blue butterfly, and the Mitchell’s satyr butterfly.
  • Ken’s ability to motivate others is shown at the Camp Friedenswald prairie and oak savanna restoration projects, where Camp staff attribute much of the work they have been able to accomplish over the past seven years to Kenneth Kesson’s support, expertise, guidance and encouragement.

2018 Conservation Farmer of the Year
Presented to: Kevin Hershberger

In recognition of your superior performance and strong commitment to no-till and conservation-based farming in Cass County.

The following are examples of his efforts:

  • Being a pioneer in Cass County for no-till farming Kevin and his wife Jill own and operate Kelsey Lake Farms and have invested in no-till farming over the past thirty years. This year they were able to boast yields of 268 bushels of corn per acre.
  • With their commitment to the environment they also utilize low-impact grazing practices such as rotational grazing for their twenty-five head of cattle.
  • Kevin shares his passion for soil conservation with other farmers in the community and advocates they also transition from traditional tillage methods toward minimal or no-till practices.
  • We are grateful Kevin committed to serve the community on the Cass County Conservation District Board for the past 5 years with the purpose of supporting and raising awareness of ecologically based farming and has continued to be a cheerleader for the MAEAP program.

2018 Environmental Awareness Advocate
Presented to: Marcellus News and posthumously Ramona Moormann

In recognition of the ongoing commitment to inspire readers and stimulate their generation of a conscious commitment to a thriving, just and sustainable way of life on Earth.

The following are examples of their efforts:

  • Every Marcellus News edition includes sidebar PSA’s which encourage reduce, reuse, recycle, “make the world a better place”, sustainability notes, nature & environmental activism notes and quotes.
  • The paper includes articles that address world/environmental issues while keeping with their central theme of serving information about their own hometown of Marcellus.
  • We want to recognize the passion Ramona Moormann brought from her experience with the Green Party and peaceful protest efforts against nuclear power and nuclear war which she shared through the tool of media in a simple yet empowering way.
  • We are grateful David Moormann continues this important focus that was “his Mom’s whole thing” in “our little paper” as each small action ripples toward building a wave of consciousness which affects this small community’s worldview.

2018 Volunteer of the Year
Presented to: Jeffrey Blyveis

In recognition of your tireless dedication and support of conservation education and District programs in Cass County.

  • The District is extremely thankful for the great amount of time commitment Jeff Blyveis provided assisting the Cass County Conservation District. As our top 2018 volunteer he logged at least 282 volunteer hours. A few examples of activities include setting up big screen for educational events, promoting the district at community activities such as Color Tour, coordinating catering for annual meeting, fully immersing himself into the critical success of the Tree Sale from assisting with catalog mailing, setting up distribution area, wrapping trees and spending long hours selling trees on Tree Sale Days.
  • Serving as volunteer coordinator Jeff turned his volunteer time into even more volunteer time for the District by contacting and organizing assistance from other volunteers. We recognize this effort requires more time than most realize as countless hours are spent calling and receiving returned calls in the volunteer coordination effort.
  • We appreciate his dedication to the program and professional approach to securing this most necessary voluntary assistance from 43 individuals who all combined volunteered 678.5 hours. This helped provide at minimum an equivalent value of $6, 276.13 to the District from total volunteer hours.
  • We also want to recognize Jeff’s cheerful way of sharing his compassion for wildlife and environmental education at special activities such as the Blue Gill Frolic booth and hikes w/a naturalist.

2017 Awardees

Conservationist of the Year (posthumous): Gertrude “Gertie” Temple 

A true steward of the land nominated for the award by Bruce Campbell, Drain Commissioner.  Gertrude “Gertie” Temple touched the lives of everyone she met and will be remembered for her integrity, passion – and her smile.

She was especially passionate about preserving the pristine water of the lake she held so dear – Birch Lake – as well as the wetlands in Porter Township.  She, and her husband Bob Temple, devoted countless hours over 39 years to protect and preserve the water quality of Birch Lake. She worked tirelessly to learn from the experts and apply that knowledge to spearhead many programs and efforts – and as she would always say, “with the help of many dedicated volunteers”.  Gertie worked hand-in-hand with Cass County’s Director of Environmental Health to design and implement the Cass County Health Department Birch Lake Survey Program and the Birch Lake Monitoring Program.  She was actively involved in Michigan Lakes and Streams Association and was instrumental in the implementation of the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program for Birch Lake, as well as the founding of the Birch Lake Improvement Association, the Water Quality Committee of the Birch Lake Yacht Club, and the Birch Lake Watershed Association.  She also served for many years as the Secretary of the Porter Township Sewer Board, with a goal to prevent possible pollution from improper installation and maintenance.  As chair of the Porter Township Wetlands Committee, she worked towards creating a comprehensive Ordinance to protect its unique wetlands.  Gertie had a heart of gold and was a one of kind treasure who left an incredible legacy.

Conservation Farmer of the Year: Chris Rosselit 

For as long as anyone can remember, Chris Rosselit has been an important member of the Cass County farming community and regarded very highly by his peers. Chris has earned a reputation of being one of the friendliest and kind people in our community. As a farmer, Chris has demonstrated a strong commitment to be an environmental steward through his conservation based farming. Farming 800 total acres of corn and soy, Chris has been a pioneer of conservation. His farm was one of the first in the County to practice no-till and he has conducted several cover crop trials. For 25 years he has continued no-till planting, has become a user of annual rye as a cover crop, and practiced sound nutrient management through responsibly calculated fertilizer applications. Chris’s farm is verified in the cropping system in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).  Chris’ overall character and commitment to be an environmental steward make him more than qualified to receive the award of Cass County Farmer of the Year.

Wildlife/Habitat Stewardship: Gordon Seyfarth

In recognition of his deep understanding and appreciation of the web of life and his efforts to create habitats which protect a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial wildlife in a small space.

To read more about what Gordon Seyfarth is doing click here. 

Ag-Tourism: A-Mazing Acres

2017 Ag Tourism award recognition is given to A-Mazing Acres located on US 12 in Mason Township.  Using their unique farm as a form of entertainment they have been educating their guests about “Farm to Market”. Guests can spend unlimited time exploring the corn maze, plus enjoy other attractions such as a miners mountain slide, jumping pillow, corn boxes, goat barn, pedal cart & trike track, and many more fun games/attractions.

Through their conservation farming practices, recently MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program) certified in farmstead, cropping and livestock, they strive to be good stewards of the land.  They have implemented land conservation, no-till farming, minimally use chemicals on crops, practice rotation planting, and water conservation.

They invite the general public to the farm six days a week via school field trips, corporate team building events and general public attendees to experience animals, crops, farm to table food, and fun!  Their outreach has extended to visitors from as far away as Belgium and Singapore, and in the States from Chicago to Texas!  Rick and Roni Hoff of A-Mazing Acres make special efforts to ensure no matter where they are from they all experience Cass County Michigan in an entertaining and educational way!

Conservation Educator: Nelson’s Herbs

Karen Nelson and her son Jason Nelson are recognized for their commitment to conservation education. Nelson’s Herbs is not just a local greenhouse and market but, a location for the raising the community awareness of sustainability and natural living.  The following are examples of their educational works:

  • Recently formed Fermentation club which meets at the Herb Shop for sharing the benefits of food fermentation, experiences, and recipes.
  • Classes on gardening, growing and using herbs, fermentation, beer brewing, ect.
  • Our initial phase of the prairie (first 3 acres, 12 more to come) is used as classroom for teaching about native plants, pollinators, reptiles, and native mammals, and birds. Also, to teach wild foraging for food and herbs
  • The raised bed gardens are a teaching tool to show people that they can feed themselves in a small space.
  • The plant sales area is a place to teach people about the different varieties of herbs and heirloom vegetables and their importance.
  • 10 ½ years writing for The Edwardsburg Voice. Informational articles on gardening, Herbs and their uses, recipes using what we harvest from the garden, and the importance of sustainability.
  • Our yearly charity event, Feeding Cass County, to educate people about a great amount of emergency need in this county for food, hygiene products, and the simple necessities of life.  Karen and Jason teach by living what they teach and continue to learn to share.  They live by their mentor Gandhi who taught, “Be the change that you want to see in the world”. They exemplify kindness, compassion, empathy, and education.