Ohio’s top conservation farm families for 2011 were honored for their long-standing dedication to natural resource conservation on the land they farm during ceremonies at the Farm Science Review near London on Sept. 22. The annual award is sponsored by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Soil and Water Resources, Ohio Farmer magazine and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
Among the families honored were the Billenstein family from Hardin County, Kevin and Sarah Swope of Columbiana County, Mike and Amy Fair of Holmes County, Brent and Christine Pence of Clark County and Samuel and Anne Byars from Ross County.
Since 1984, the Conservation Farm Family Awards program has recognized 146 Ohio farm families for their exemplary efforts of conserving soil, water, woodland and wildlife and other natural resources on the land they farm. Conservation farm families also host a variety of educational programs, opening their farms to schools, scout groups, farm organizations and others.
Billenstein & Sons farm more than 3,900 acres in Hardin County. Major crops include corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. They also raise cattle. Conservation techniques utilized include no-till, cover crops and crop rotation. Grass waterways and filter strips have also been installed. The farm has made advancements with regard to fertilizer containment and a covered manure structure.
Kevin and Sarah Swope farm 80 acres in Columbiana County. They grow hay and raise bison and sheep. They have built and conserved their soils by seeding the fields to pasture and implementing a managed grazing system. They also stopped using commercial fertilizer on pastures. Soil life and earthworms have returned with only lime applications and proper grazing techniques.
Mike and Amy Fair farm 190 acres in Holmes County. They grow corn and soybeans and raise cattle. With assistance from NRCS and the Holmes SWCD, they developed a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan and Conservation Plan. The goal was to improve nutrient management by managing the amount, form, placement and timing of nutrient application. Conservation practices include crop rotation, no-till, cover crops nutrient management and waste utilization.
Brent and Christine Pence farm more than 2,800 acres in Clark, Champaign, Greene and Miami counties. They grow corn, soybeans and wheat and raise cattle. Conservation techniques include the installation of subsurface drainage, grass waterways, buffer strips and no-till. Their operation uses auto-steer to reduce the chance for pesticide spray overlap. They have also volunteered to be involved with a carbon sequestration study done by Colorado State University.
Samuel and Anne Byars farm 420 acres in Ross County. Corn, beans and wheat are the principle crops. Conservation techniques utilized include no-till, cover crops and crop rotation. To combat gully erosion, more than 8,000 feet of grassed waterways and 10,000 feet of sub-surface drainage were installed. To address ditch bank erosion problems, more than 60 acres of buffer strips and riparian tree plantings were done along ditches. The Byars farm has hosted numerous farm tours to local farmers to illustrate the importance of conservation programs especially in cover crops. Their farm is one of the only farms in the area to use cover crops such as radishes and rye.