Published Jul 17, 2018

Award ceremony will honor 2018 Farmland Owner Legacy Award recipients Maggie McQuown and Steve Turman – July 31, in Red Oak

By Tamsyn Jones

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For Release: July 17, 2018


Tamsyn Jones | Outreach & Publications Coordinator | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |

RED OAK, Iowa —Practical Farmers of Iowa invites farmers, landowners and the public to an awards ceremony and celebration honoring Maggie McQuown and Steve Turman, of Resilient Farms in Red Oak, who were selected as the recipients of Practical Farmers’ 2018 Farmland Owner Legacy Award.

The event will take place on Tuesday, July 31, from 5-8 p.m., at Red Coach Inn & Restaurant in Red Oak (1200 Senate Ave.), and is free and open to anyone. The evening will include a light dinner and cash bar, and will also feature a soil health presentation by Iowa State University agronomist Rick Cruse titled “Gaining Ground: Soil as a Renewable Resource.” RSVPs are required by Friday, July 27, to or (515) 232-5661.

At 5:30 p.m., Practical Farmers’ executive director, Sally Worley, and PFI lifetime members Jon and Tina Bakehouse of Hastings, will welcome guests and provide an overview of Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Farmland Owner Legacy Award. The soil health presentation will start at 5:50 p.m., and the award presentation will take place at 6:20 p.m., followed by dinner.

The Farmland Owner Legacy Award is granted annually by Practical Farmers to landowners who use their land to help the next generation get started, advance land stewardship and promote long-term sustainability of farm businesses, environmental quality and rural communities. With this award, Practical Farmers calls attention to the important role non-operator farmland owners can play in the future success of sustainable agriculture.

Commitment to conservation

Since retiring in 2012 to the farm Maggie grew up on, she and her husband, Steve, have worked closely with their farm operators, Bryan and Lisa Huff, to incorporate conservation practices on the 170-acre farm that improve soil health, reduce erosion and nutrient loss, create wildlife habitat and increase biodiversity.

“We feel very strong about soil health and regeneration,” Maggie says. “Just like with genome research, the same is happening with soil biome research. There is so much we’re learning about microbiology and the whole environmental cycle, about the role of microbes and soil health. Farmers really have to take notice.”

In addition to no-tilling and planting cover crops on the entire 132 acres of row-cropped ground, Maggie and Steve have installed a native tree, shrub and prairie riparian buffer and added native prairie strips. They also have grassed waterways, wetlands, terraces and have put several acres into conservation reserve and conservation stewardship practices.

“Maggie and Steve were one of the first farmland owners to step forward and show a willingness to work with the STRIPS team to test the prairie strips conservation practice,” says Lisa Schulte Moore, a professor of natural resource ecology and management at ISU and co-leader of ISU’s Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips project.

“It’s been very clear from our first discussion that they have a passion for their land, for protecting water and providing pollinator habitat, and that they seek to do it in ways that also support rural livelihoods.”

Lisa also serves on Practical Farmers’ board of directors, and will present the Farmland Owner Legacy Award to Maggie and Steve at the ceremony.

A holistic view of farm sustainability

In addition to their land stewardship efforts, Maggie and Steve also raise produce to sell through a small CSA and at the local Red Oak Farmers Market, and they are working to make their farm energy-efficient.

They built a solar-powered PassivHaus home, which eliminates the need for a furnace, and converted an old building on the property into an energy-efficient wash and pack house for their produce enterprise – and they have plans to expand their solar capacity, and add wind generation to the farm.

While Maggie and Steve both had an affinity for nature, and an awareness of environmental challenges facing the planet – Maggie says her great-grandfather was a “pioneer of conservation” who added terraces and an evergreen windbreak in 1920, and Steve was an active hiker and backpacker – they say the urgency of living with a regenerative mindset didn’t hit them until the spring of 2006, when they started reading and hearing more about the issue of oil depletion.

“It hit us like a brick wall,” Maggie says. “First we were stunned and amazed how this wasn’t an issue that was being talked about. Then we went through a period of mourning and depression. Then we said, ‘We’ve got to do what we can, make change, reduce our carbon footprint.’”

Maggie had always stayed in the loop about the happenings on the farm when she was living and working out of state in the fashion, advertising and marketing industries. But when the parcel of farmland she now owns transferred to her in 2009, after her mother’s death, she and Steve realized they could take tangible action towards living more sustainably through their decisions as farmland owners.

“We want to provide an example of sustainable land use, including how to transition from the typical corn-soybean rotation to something that more closely mimics nature,” Steve says.

Planning for a resilient future

Maggie and Steve were living in Dallas, Texas, at the time, and started planning their energy-efficient house and learning all they could about farming – a process that continued after they moved to Iowa. They subscribed to numerous farm publications, read books, attended conferences and joined Practical Farmers of Iowa.

“Steve and I started devouring information,” Maggie says. “The good news is I’m not farming the row crop part. Our farm operators have been farming for our family for over 20 years, and Bryan is definitely into conservation practices and no-till. We have really robust conversations with them.”

Maggie and Steve have even bolder goals for the future of Resilient Farms, including expanding the produce enterprise, someday integrating livestock, increasing their energy-efficiency, restoring some of the historic buildings on the property and turning the farm into an educational hub for the community.

“We’re working on a long-term master plan for what the farm should be,” Maggie says.

“We realize this landscape was tallgrass prairie and savanna, periodically grazed by large herbivores and burned every five or six years,” Steve adds. “That’s how it is healthiest, and we’d like to mimic that as much as possible.”

Directions: The Red Coach Inn & Restaurant is located just off U.S. 34 on the north side of Red Oak. Detailed directions are available at


Practical Farmers of Iowa works to equip farmers to build resilient farms and communities. Our values include: welcoming everyone; farmers leading the exchange of experience and knowledge; curiosity, creativity, collaboration and community; resilient farms now and for future generations; and stewardship of land and resources. To learn more, visit