Dale Theel of Greendale Farm is the recipient of the 2021 Mathias-Lesczynski Water Quality Award. Dale is a second generation farmer, and took over ownership of the farm in 1983 when his father retired. Now he, along with his wife Denise and sons Chris and Josh, operate 650-acres of no-till corn, soybeans, and winter wheat.
When Dale initially assumed management of the farm, he realized that no-planting would save both soil and time. By the early 1990s, their operation was 100% no-till.
As part of their continuing efforts to improve the land, the Theels started planting cover crops and planting green within the last ten years. Planting green is a the practice of planting primary cash crops, like corn and soybeans, into actively growing cover crops. With this method, cover crop biomass can be easily doubled, which helps to increase water filtration and reduces surface runoff and soil erosion.
Dale recalls the early transition years were a time of experiment, as there were few farmers to ask for guidance. Now Dale uses his experiences to help teach others. He worked to start the Fond du Lac County Farmers for Healthy Soil, and is a member of Between the Lakes Demonstration Farm Network. He has been active in the community by serving as a Town Board member for the Town of Empire, serving on the USDA Farm Service Agency County Committee, and now serving as the at-large member of the Fond du Lac County Land Conservation Committee, which he currently chairs.