Brian Pillsbury, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Grazing Land Specialist (Retired), received the NRCS Pastureland Conservationist of the Year Award for 2020 after over 30 years of dedicated service to the NRCS. The honor was presented at the 2021 American Forage and Grassland Council virtual conference on January 11, 2021.
This award recognizes an NRCS employee for their exceptional education and outreach to promote sustainable grazing practices. Brian has exemplified outstanding service to the agency, its customers and the science of grazing land management. He has been instrumental in moving grazing forward in Wisconsin.
Brian was raised on a 40-cow dairy farm in Vermont, growing up with a foundation of understanding livestock and working the land. He started his career with the Soil Conservation Service, now NRCS, in Iowa and eventually came to Wisconsin.
“NRCS is grateful to have such an outstanding advocate for grazing; his conservation efforts and impact on the landscape will be cherished for many more year to come,” said Eric Hurley, NRCS State Resource Conservationist. Brian received his recognition for excelling in five categories (1) communication, (2) training, (3) partnerships, (4) conservation application and (5) job complexity.
Brian has been a primary technical and promotional lead for modern, conservation grazing land management for over three decades. “We are so grateful for Brian’s expertise. There are few grazing operations in Wisconsin that have not benefited either directly from Brian’s work or from the people he trained,” added Angela Biggs, NRCS Wisconsin State Conservationist.
During his career, Brian organized the first state grazing lands coalition and worked with agricultural groups and public agencies to build the grazing infrastructure in Wisconsin from the ground up. His influence extends beyond Wisconsin borders; he has created or updated grazing conservation practice standards, guidance documents and training curriculum that is used nationally. He has also been a mainstay speaker at regional and national grazing conferences.
Brian’s leadership qualities are easily recognized in his ability to train and work with producers and new employees in grazing management. Brian has had many accomplishments that have positively impacted customers and staff across the state. He has provided countless trainings and presentations at GrassWorks; MOSES Midwest Organic Conference; Soil and Water Conservation meetings, grazing meetings, University presentations, field days and more. He’s also trained over 300 NRCS, county and RC&D employees in prescribed grazing. Brian explains, “Wisconsin partners and grass farmers have been very supportive and helpful in achieving these accomplishments; I would like to thank all of them.”
Brian’s career with NRCS has been exemplary and his positive, professional attitude enables him to build key partnerships and work to expand managed grazing across the state, region and nationally. Brian recently retired from NRCS and plans to come back to assist part-time as an Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services (ACES) enrollee. His drive for sharing his passion of managed grazing lives on! Please join us in congratulating Brian Pillsbury as the 2020 National Pastureland Conservationist Award recipient.