Don Hawkins, taking home the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation

Don Hawkins of Mineral Point spent 32 years as an exemplary teacher of agriculture at Mineral Point High School before retiring to become a shining example of community engagement.


After retiring in 1983, Don contributed to the community through years of service on a number of boards. Then, in 1997 Don helped secure a lease on 200 acres in Iowa County where the soil had been exhausted by farming. By forming some new partnerships, including the recruitment of Iowa County jail inmates, he was instrumental in turning the former crop fields into one of the largest prairie restorations in Southwest Wisconsin. Eventually, another 230 acres was added to create the 430-acre Iowa County Recreation and Prairie Restoration—a beautiful retreat for all to enjoy.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page3

About that same time, Don began to lead two other restoration projects—ultimately transforming 20-acres of an idle-weed patch and small mixed-wood forest that are owned by local schools, into valuable assets for students, teachers and other community members. One of which, has appropriately been dubbed the “Don Hawkins Community Oak Savannah” while the other is now a beautiful tall-grass prairie.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page4

On top of this, Don has been leading a partnership between a high school ag and third grade class for eight years, starting prairie seed in a greenhouse and planting them in the savannas. He has brought many other grades and classes to the savannas as well, to learn and engage with the outdoors.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page2

“Will Don ever slow down? It seems unlikely…. The satisfaction he gains from restoring the land and helping build community continues to beckon.” (Chuck Tennessen, Voice of the River Valley). For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Don Hawkins with a Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

*All photos courtesy of Friends of the Oak Savanna