Hagie Award Winner 2000: LaVon Griffieon

Posted on September 28, 2000 in Blog

LaVon Griffieon of Ankeny has been selected as the winner of this year's Hagie Heritage Award, one of the largest conservation awards in the state.

The award is presented annually by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) and recognizes Iowans who have demonstrated an outstanding volunteer commitment to conservation and improvement of the natural environment. As the Hagie Award winner, Griffieon will receive $1,000 and a hand-carved acorn sculpture donated by Dennis & Linda Schlict of Center Point.

Griffieon's conservation roots run deep in Iowa. Raised on a farm near Spirit Lake, she now farms with her husband, Craig, and four children north of Ankeny. Griffieon is a champion for agriculture, conservation and educating Iowans about the benefits of both.

"LaVon is an excellent choice for the Hagie Award," Mark Ackelson, INHF president said. "Her commitment to the protection of Iowa's natural resources is a model for the rest of us."

Griffieon was selected from a field of 13 Iowans nominated for this year's award. "All of the candidates were great people with humbling accomplishments," Ackelson said. The selection committee, made up of
INHF board members also noted the highly competitive field. "These candidates were truly inspirational," one selection committee member said.

Griffieon's work with agriculture and the promotion of sound land use began during the 1980's. One of her first projects was the Ag in the Classroom program. The idea came from Griffieon taking a litter of eight puppies to her daughter's pre-school classroom. "Most of the kids didn't know what they were," Griffieon said. That experience showed her the importance of educating students about "the inter-relationship and inter-dependence of Iowa's rural and urban citizens."

In 1988, Griffieon adopted 400 Ankeny elementary students in 21 classrooms to help teach them about agriculture and conservation on private farmland in Iowa. The program was expanded (across Polk County), with Griffieon adopting as many as 1,034 Des Moines and Ankeny students. She also authored an educational textbook to supplement the program and hosted more than 12,000 children on farm tours.

In 1996, Griffieon became involved with another conservation issue. After seeing farmland encroached upon more each year, Griffieon decided to do something. She 25 people interested in land use issues for a meeting in her home. Out of that meeting, 1000 Friends of Iowa was born. The group's mission is to educate the citizens of Iowa about the long-term benefits of halting urban sprawl, conserving natural resources and revitalizing urban neighborhoods. Griffieon, along with state representative Ed Fallon of Des Moines, helped start the organization, of which Griffieon now serves as president.

Griffieon has given hundreds of presentations across the state and country, speaking about land use topics and promoting smarter growth. She also created a series of "Burma Shave Cow" signs, which feature a series of roadside signs with poems and illustrations promoting smart land use. This year's RAGBRAI will feature a different set of signs for each day.

Griffieon has also been honored with numerous other conservation awards, including one of her most recent awards, the Wallace's Farmer 2000 Master Farmer Award, which she shared with her husband, Craig. She's also been involved with the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Des Moines Metro Area Urban Water Quality Project and the Wallace House Foundation.

Griffieon says her efforts helped her see "interdependency" between the urban and rural forces that some perceive to be working against each other. "What I've come to realize is that rural Iowa and urban areas have a lot in common," Griffieon said. "We are all important to each other."

Griffieon was nominated by Wayne Petersen, Urban Conservationist for the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service and Alisa Meggitt, both of Iowa City. Meggitt said that Griffieon had inspired her on many levels. "We need champions like LaVon out there to raise awareness of environmental issues," Meggitt said.

This is the eleventh year that INHF has presented the Hagie Heritage Award. It was established by Jan Shindel of DeWitt and Ila Jeanne Logan of Moville, Iowa, in honor of their parents, Lawrence and Eula Hagie.