Wilbert Blumhardt of Bowdle, South Dakota, is a long-time leader in soil and water conservation, co-founder of the South Dakota No-Till Association, and former chairman of the State Conservation Commission. These and other accomplishments accounted for his being named 1985 Eminent Farmer for South Dakota.
At the time of the award, Blumhardt had served 21 years as a member of the Edmunds County Crop Improvement Association, and he sat as a member of the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment.
He began farming with his father after finishing high school, but this association was interrupted by the Korean War. It was there that Blumhardt became sensitized to the need for soil and water conservation as he witnessed examples of severe erosion. He returned from the War and immediately became active in conservation. One of his first acts was to help form the Edmunds County Conservation District in 1956, and he served as its first chairman. He enjoyed the contacts he made among like-minded conservationists, and this led to involvement on the state, regional, and national levels. "This was the college education I never had a chance to get," he said.
He served 18 years on the State Conservation Commission, eight as chairman. He and fellow members pushed for legislation to mandate the reclamation of surface-mined areas. Laws governing soil and water compatibility for irrigation also were passed during those years, and they were the first such laws in the nation.
His own farming program became 100-percent no-till, and 1985 was the fifth year of no-tilling small grains and the third for row crops on his 2,700-acre operation. Blumhardt felt using his own land for such demonstration work was the best way to show others that such practices work, to show the economic advantages, and to gain public acceptance.
Blumhardt and his wife, Hertha, have two children--Glenn and Wynn. Both are graduates of South Dakota State University.