Earth Day Is Every Day For This Farming Family

A healthy environment and a positive economic bottom line are critical elements for a sustainable agriculture, says Mark Jackson, who was named “Conservation Farmer of the Year” for Iowa in 2020.

Mark has been farming since 1974 after graduating from Iowa State University. His conservation plan includes at least 10 practices that are not required by conservation compliance — including no-till, contouring, terraces, farm pounds, field borders, filter strips, water and sediment control basins, cover crops and nutrient management planning.

Mark and his brother, Tom, are proud to be fifth-generation farmers in the rolling hills of Mahaska County in southeastern Iowa.

Family 1

Tom, Mark and Michael Jackson

“To me, farming is about a legacy of preserving land, sustainability and making that land better for the next generation,” Mark says.

His history of caring for soil and water was recognized by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. At the time, Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said: “With all that he does in conservation, and with all of his work to pass that knowledge on to future generations, Mark is absolutely deserving of this award.”

It was Mark’s son, however, who nominated his father for the honor. Like many boys who grow up on a farm, Mike Jackson wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He was involved in FFA through high school and raised sheep for his Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE).

Mike graduated from Muscatine Community College with a degree in Feed and Fertilizer Management. Following graduation, he put his degree to work by building his first 1,200-head SEW (segregated early wean) swine building.

To further diversify his family’s farming income, Mike became a Latham® Dealer.

Mike began using cover crops in 2015, experimenting with a few small trials to see what worked best on their land. The positive impact on erosion and nutrient control piqued Mike’s interest, so he bought a drill in 2015 and started a trend by custom drilling cover crops for other farmers in the area. For his commitment to cover crops and soil health, Mike was named one of America’s Best Young Farmers and Ranchers in 2019 by DTN/Progressive Farmer.

“Farming allows us to share our passion with our family,” Mike says. “It’s carrying on the legacy for the next generation.”

Mike and his wife, Mary Beth, are the sixth generation to live on their family’s farm. They’re raising their three children in a house built in 1908 by Mike’s great-great grandfather.

Family 2

Michael Jackson’s Family

The Jacksons are sharing with us one of their family’s favorite recipes for Baked Pork Chops and Rice.

Baked Pork Chops and Rice


• 4 center cut pork chops,
seasoning with salt and pepper
• ½ cup diced celery
• ½ cup diced onion
• 2 cups instant rice
• 1 can (14.5 ounce) chicken broth
• 1 can water (or another can of
chicken broth)
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings


  • Brown chops in skillet, seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Combine celery, onion and rice in large greased casserole (9x13”).
  • Arrange browned chops on top of rice.
  • Combine water and chicken broth and pour over top of chops and rice.
  • Sprinkle Italian seasoning over top of pork and rice.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
  • Remove foil and bake 10 extra minutes, if needed.