By DOUG GRAVES
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has recognized five families with 2019 Conservation Farm Family Awards.
“It is one thing to talk about the importance of conservation on the farm, but it is quite another to practice it every day like these award-winning families,” said ODA Director Dorothy Pelanda. “I’m proud of them for being good neighbors, handling the land with care, and helping to responsibly keep food and agriculture a top-ranking industry in Ohio.”
The five families honored were: Kurt Farms of Hardin County, Rick and Janice Brill of Lorain County, Doug and Beth McConnell of Muskingum County, Tim and Lynn Miller of Logan County, and Fred and Kristy Walters of Hocking County.
“Each of the five farm families we recognized operates in a different area in Ohio, with differing acreages, soils and topography,” said Kirk Hines, chief of the department’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation. “What binds these families together is the commitment to conservation and dedication to thinking of the next generation of farmers to come.”
Kurt Farms tends to more than 470 acres, where corn and soybeans are raised. Five years ago, Kurt Farms installed a half-mile, two-stage ditch, which carries a normal flow of water, as well as a high flow on benches planted with vegetation.
Through a partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Ohio Farm Bureau, Kurt Farms became part of the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network for education on conservation practices. The farm has been the site of dozens of tours, trips and demonstrations for farm and community groups, media, school and college groups.
The Brills tend to corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on their 1,800-acre farm in Lorain County. They recently sold their milking cows and are now raising 200 calves and heifers. Brill-View Farms has been a cooperator with Lorain Soil and Water Conservation District since 1971.
The Brills work with Sunrise Cooperative to adhere to best practices for both fertilizer and manure applications. Brill-View Farms has hosted many tours for schools groups and dairy groups through the Holstein Association.
The McConnels farm 482 acres, raising corn and soybeans. The McConnells also custom-raise Jersey heifers for a nearby dairy. They have transitioned to using rye cover crops on corn and soybean acres.
Most of their property is considered highly erodible land, and they use no-till and cover crops to reduce erosion. They use rotational grazing for their cow and calf herds. The family won the Muskingum SWCD Resource Conservationist of the Year in 2018.
Timothy and Lynn Miller have more than 2,400 acres in Logan County used for no-till corn and soybeans. The Millers apply their own fertilizer, using variable rates based on field needs identified with grid soil sampling and yield monitoring. The couple also installs their own subsurface drainage as needed. They hosted the Top of Ohio Ag tour to educate the non-ag community about agriculture. The Millers were the Logan SWCD Cooperator of the Year in 2015.
Fred and Kristy Walters farm 335 acres in Hocking County with 203 managed as woodland. The farm also includes grasslands used for pasture, hay production, wildlife food plots and pollinator habitat. They also maintain a cow-calf herd of registered Angus.
The Walters are currently developing a tree farm that was previously clear-cut in the 1990s. Utilizing a Woodland Stewardship Management Plan by the Division of Forestry, they have become a certified American Tree Farm. The couple has planted pollinator plots and wildlife food plots, which help support deer, turkeys and other wildlife on the farm. The Walters have been cooperators with Hocking SWCD for 39 years.
Since 1984, the Conservation Farm Family Awards program has recognized 186 Ohio farm families for their exemplary efforts conserving soil, water, woodland, wildlife and other natural resources on the land they farm.