The 2016 recipient of our annual Conservation Farmer of the Year Award goes to Emil Smolek. Emil began farming in 1941. He left farming to serve his country in WWII. He returned in 1946 and has been farming ever since. Emil farms around 500 acres and has filter strips on all of his ground. Filter strips serve to protect water quality by slowing runoff from fields, and by trapping and filtering sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and other pollutants before they reach surface water.