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Bartholomay Kattle Kompany Selected for North Dakota Leopold Conservation Award

Bartholomay Kattle Kompany of Sheldon is the recipient of the 2023 North Dakota Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes private landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.

In North DakotaSand County Foundation presents the award with national sponsor American Farmland Trust, and state partners: North Dakota Grazing Lands CoalitionNorth Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts and the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.

Bartholomay Kattle Kompany is a partnership between Keith and Sandi Bartholomay, and their son Karl and his wife Becca. They manage more than 4,000 acres of cropland, native range, and pastures in Ransom County. The Bartholomays will be presented with $10,000 and a crystal award for being selected during the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts’ Annual Convention in November.

Earlier this year, North Dakota landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.

The first North Dakota Leopold Conservation Award was presented to Black Leg Ranch from McKenzie in 2016. Last year’s recipient was Spring Valley Cattle from Glen Ullin.

The Leopold Conservation Award Program in North Dakota is made possible thanks to the generous support of the American Farmland Trust, North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, Sand County Foundation, Starion Bank, North Dakota Game & Fish Department, APEX Clean Energy, Audubon Dakota, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Burleigh County Soil Conservation District, Cass County Soil Conservation District, ConocoPhillips, Cow Chip Ranch, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, Emmons County Soil Conservation District, Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District, KEM Electric Cooperative, McDonald’s, Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative, North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, Pheasants Forever, Roughrider Electric Cooperative, Slope Electric Cooperative, The Nature Conservancy, The Wildlife Society, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. For more information on the award, visit


For more than a century, farming and ranching atop an aquifer has provided unique benefits and challenges for the Bartholomay family.

They raise cattle and grow crops in the wet and sandy Sheyenne Delta of the Red River Valley; where a high water table provides favorable soil conditions even when the rest of North Dakota is suffering from drought. However, the water table’s proximity to the Bartholomay’s fields and pastures means they take extra precaution to prevent runoff that could pollute the aquifer below.

Bartholomay Kattle Kompany is a partnership formed in 2019 between Keith and Sandi Bartholomay, their son Karl and his wife Becca. Prior to that, Keith and his brother Kent owned K&K Bartholomay Farms, a continuation of the farm their parents Joe and Marian started.

The Bartholomays manage more than 4,000 acres of cropland, native range, river bottoms, and pastures at multiple locations. They grow corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, and sunflowers, and raise a herd of 280 cow-calf pairs.

For decades the Bartholomays have looked for ways to improve the resilience of their landscape and bottom line. Chief among them has been using no-till farming practices on most of their cropland to enhance the soil’s productivity and manage its moisture level. An increased amount of organic matter in the soil improves its ability to infiltrate water.

They interseed their cornfields with a cover crop mix of barley rye, triticale, turnips, radishes, kale, field peas, and crimson clover, to reduce erosion and improve soil health. Cover crops and crop residue are used for cattle grazing during the fall and winter, which recycles the nutrients from manure on their fields.

The management of nutrients and manure was key factor in the Bartholomays decision to construct a hoop barn. When their cattle are not out on pasture, they need a place to house them. An open feedlot would be too wet and muddy to manage run-off. The hoop barn’s design diverts rainwater and stores manure until it can be applied as fertilizer on cropland. The manure’s nutrient levels are tested so they know exactly what they are applying to their soil prior to seeding crops. This system has saved thousands in fertilizer expenses, and keeps sandy soils in place during times of high winds.

The Bartholomays employ a rotational grazing system in which their cows are split into four herds and rotated to fresh pasture every week to 10 days. All pastures receive at least 100 days of rest after being grazed. Grazing and the stomping of cattle hooves also help manage invasive Leafy spurge, Canada thistle, and Russian olive and cottonwood trees.

Miles of tree rows have been planted to provide cattle with protection from harsh weather conditions. The trees also refresh the air quality while serving as habitat and a food source for wildlife. The nearly 300 acres of restored tall grass prairie at Bartholomay Kattle Kompany has reestablished habitat for deer, fox, gamebirds, and beneficial insects and pollinators.

While the name on their farm sign has changed over time, the conservation ethic of its owners has not. Through innovation and persistence, the Bartholomays have adopted conservation practices that benefit the land, water, and wildlife on a unique North Dakota landscape.


“The North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition is proud to join in congratulating the Bartholomay family on being awarded the 2023 Leopold Conservation Award,” said Jay Reiser, NDGLC President. “The Bartholomay family truly exemplifies what it means to promote conservation and regenerative practices on the working lands of North Dakota.”

“On behalf of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, I want to extend congratulations to the Bartholomay family, this year’s Leopold Conservation Award winner,” said NDSA President Jason Leiseth. “Ranchers and farmers take their jobs as stewards of the land and the livestock seriously. It is not only how we make our living, but how we can ensure a legacy for future generations. The Bartholomays are a testament to that, and we congratulate them on this prestigious honor.”

“The North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts is proud to honor the Bartholomay Kattle Kompany as this year’s Leopold Conservation Award recipient,” said Kent Pedersen, NDASCD Director. “The Bartholomay family is an advocate in the cattle industry and true conservation stewards for North Dakota.”

“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the North Dakota recipient,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

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