Secretary Naig Recognizes Conservation Leaders at Agribusiness Showcase

Ruth McCabe, Hands On Excavating Receive Secretary’s Iowa Ag Leader Awards

DES MOINES, Iowa (Feb. 9, 2022) – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced two leaders in conservation awards during the Iowa Agribusiness Showcase and Conference today. Hands On Excavating and Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) Ruth McCabe, conservation agronomist with Heartland Coop, were recognized with the Secretary’s Iowa Ag Leader Award for Conservation. The Secretary’s Iowa Ag Leader Awards are presented to people and organizations that make exceptional contributions to the state’s agriculture community.

“I am proud to present Ruth McCabe and Hands On Excavating with the Secretary’s Iowa Ag Leader Awards. They are trusted advisors who work with farmers and landowners to identify and implement conservation solutions that are right for their landscapes and their farms,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “These recipients are great advocates for soil health and water quality. They are prime examples of how the public and private sectors can work together to advance the goals outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and build on our culture of conservation across the state.”

Ruth McCabe, Heartland Coop – Leader in Conservation Award

Ruth McCabe, conservation agronomist with Heartland Coop, successfully worked with farmers and landowners to identify sites and help implement saturated buffers and bioreactors as part of the Central Iowa Water Quality Infrastructure Project. She has also worked with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and other partners to develop similar projects in other central Iowa counties and in the Cedar River watershed.

Ruth has a track record of working with watershed coordinators to develop edge-of-field conservation projects in central and east central Iowa. She has also helped secure private sector funding to match state funding to complete edge-of-field conservation practices in Guthrie and Linn Counties. Ruth and her conservation agronomist role with Heartland Coop can serve as a model for public-private partnerships that successfully advance conservation efforts across the state.

Hands On Excavating – Leader in Conservation Award

Hands On Excavating was formed by Jacob, David, Brett and Brian Handsaker to provide tiling, demolition, hauling and other general excavating and earthwork services to farmers and landowners in Hardin County and surrounding areas.

In recent years, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has focused on advancing conservation drainage concepts to improve water quality while improving or maintaining crop production. In 2020, a new model was developed to streamline the process to install these practices in batches with multiple landowners through a single entity rather than one landowner at a time. Hands On Excavating was the first contractor to install practices under this new “batch and build” model. In the summer of 2021, the team installed 52 water quality projects in Polk and Dallas Counties. This record pace of implementation brought recognition to the project and helped prove a new model to support expanding these projects in the future.

During the Agribusiness Showcase, Secretary Naig thanked Hands On Excavating and Ruth McCabe for their efforts to help advance the goals outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. To learn more about the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s soil health and water quality programs, visit cleanwateriowa.org.

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About the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Led by Secretary Mike Naig, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship serves the rural and urban residents that call Iowa home. Through its 14 diverse bureaus, the Department ensures animal health, food safety and consumer protection. It also promotes conservation efforts to preserve our land and enhance water quality for the next generation. Learn more at iowaagriculture.gov.

Media Contact:
Chloe Carson
Communications Director
515-326-1616
chloe.carson@iowaagriculture.gov