Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture

2016 Award Recipients

David and Corrine Williams and Tom Kaspar are the recipients of the 2016 Spencer Award. They were recognized at a luncheon ceremony on March 22, 2017 at the Iowa Water Conference, Ames. 

David, Corrine Williams with Elaine Spencer  Left to right: Corrine Williams, Elaine Spencer, and David Williams share moment after the award ceremony. 






Gail Hickenbottom and Tom KasparLeopold Center Advisory Board member Gail Hickenbottom (left) presents the Spencer Award to Tom Kaspar.








David Williams and Mark RasmussenThe Williamses own a six-generation heritage farm near Villisca and have been farming for 60 years. They practice no-till, installed terraces, and are using cover crops. David has been a strong advocate for sustainable farming his entire life. He has served on many boards and councils including the Leopold Center's Advisory Board from 1993-2002, and was board chair in 2000.

Leopold Center Director Mark Rasmussen (right) meets with Williams in Adair County.


Tom KasparTom Kaspar is a soil scientist with the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames. He has been researching cover crops since 1990, and shares his findings with farmers across Iowa and the Midwest. He has authored fact sheets and book chapters, trained field staff, and was part of the creation of the Midwest Cover Crops Council.







Read about past recipients of the Spencer Award since 2002.

Norm and Marg

About the Spencer family

The Spencer Award honors the beliefs, innovations and stewardship of Norman and Margaretha Spencer, who farmed near Sioux City for 40 years. It serves as a lasting memorial to the Spencers, who believed that it is the obligation of each generation to leave the world a better and healtheir place for the next generation.

The award was established in 2001 by an endowment from the Spencer family, and is administered by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize.

Read a tribute to Norm and Margaretha Spencer [PDF].


Nominee eligibility and submission

Anyone who has made significant contributions to the advancement of ecological and economic practices that will make agriculture sustainable and the family farm secure for the future. This can include individuals, agricultural organizations, researchers, or educators. The contributions must have broader implications for the resilience of Iowa agriculture—extending the nominee’s reach beyond the lab, classroom or individual farm.

You may apply for the Spencer Award or be nominated by others. Agricultural organizations are strongly encouraged to submit nominations to highlight the achievements of their members.

Nominees must have:

  • Made a significant contribution that will affect, influence and/or advance the ecological and economic stability of mainstream family farms in the state of Iowa
  • A record of accomplishment in research, technical or practical advancement or education
  • A long-standing commitment to the sustainability of mainstream family farms.

Complete the Nomination Form and return it to the Leopold Center with two letters of support. The nomination form will be released soon. Nominations must be received by June 15, 2017.

Submit nominations to: Mary Adams, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, 209 Curtiss Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-1050; e-mail (with Spencer Award nom as subject line): madams@iastate.edu