About the Leopold Center

Bear Creek National Demonstration Watershedgirl fishing in pondPigs in a hooped barnHandful of fertile soil

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University was created through the 1987 Iowa Groundwater Protection Act. The Center's goals are to identify and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources as well as reducing negative environmental and social impacts.

Mark Rasmussen is the Leopold Center director.  A 17-member Advisory Board advises the director on policies, budget and program review.

The Center's mission includes an educational component to inform the agricultural community and the general public about its 30 years of research findings. The Leopold Center has a national reputation for how it had supported cutting-edge research which has led to significant dividends for Iowa -- cleaner water, better conservation of natural resources, and greater agricultural vitality.

The Leopold Center is named for Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), a native of Burlington, Iowa, known internationally as a conservationist, ecologist, and educator. He saw the need for development of a land ethic, outlined in his 1949 book of essays, A Sand County Almanac.

What difference has the Leopold Center made?

Between 1998 and 2017, the Leopold Center awarded more than 500 competitive grants coming from every Iowa county. These awards often acted as seed money to leverage other funding for research and demonstration projects, education, or planning and capacity-building efforts, aimed at developing profitable and sustainable farming systems for Iowa.  The work of the Leopold Center has made a difference in Iowa and beyond.

Funding Impact Briefs

These briefs show at-a-glance the impacts of six major investments of the Leopold Center. For every dollar the Leopold Center spent on these projects, an additional $4.60 was leveraged to complement or expand the work. These projects garnered approximately 22 percent of Leopold Center grant funding over 10 years. 

Results from these projects, by the numbers:

  • The Leopold Center invested $3,873,884 in the six projects. Together, these projects leveraged an additional $17,911,553, or $4.60 for every $1 spent by the Leopold Center.
  • 22,500 acres were shifted to more efficient conservation practices and structures such as riparian buffers to reduce nitrate runoff and soil erosion and to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
  • 51,277 individuals participated in project-related outreach activities, 12,932 (25 percent) of whom were farmers and agricultural professionals.
  • 1,078 farmers either profited or changed their farming practices to implement conservation measures as a result of these projects, accounting for more than 100 farmers per year.
  • 121 key public, private and civic sector organization partners were or are still involved in the work of these projects (individual partners were not counted).
  • 255 ISU-affiliated individuals were supported by these projects, or 25 per year (132 undergraduates, 55 graduate students, 39 faculty members, and 29 visiting professors).
  • Additional details about the evaluation are in this Fall 2013 Leopold Letter article.

Other documents showing Leopold Center impact

Success Stories in Sustainable Agriculture

KHOI Ames Community Radio [mp3 file] interview with on the Center's history with Dennis Keeney, the Leopold Center's first director, and Ralph Rosenberg, a former Iowa legislator from Ames

John Obrycki Jr. academic research project focuses on the Leopold Center history


Contributions and donations

The ISU Foundation accepts and manages all gifts made to the Leopold Center. Interested donors may make gifts online at the ISU Foundation website. This site includes instructions for making a gift or pledge. The established account number 0125322 should be used to designate gifts for the Leopold Center. The “Friends of the Leopold Center” consists of people who contribute $1,000 or more to the Center’s general fund. 

Donors also may gift stock, real estate or personal property, or may choose to make a deferred commitment through a will bequest, charitable remainder trust or other gift planning vehicle. Contact Director Mark Rasmussen to discuss major gifts to the Leopold Center, 515-294-3711, markras@iastate.edu.