2019 Conservation Farm Family Awards

Ohio’s top conservation farmers honored

The Ohio Department of Agriculture today recognized five families as winners of the 2019 Conservation Farm Family Awards at the Farm Science Review in London. Ohio Farm Bureau is a sponsor of the 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 Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda. “I am proud of each 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; Timothy 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 of 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.”

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. Conservation farm families also host a variety of educational programs, opening their farms to schools, scout groups, farm organizations and others.

The families each receive $400 from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, are featured in the September issue of Ohio Farmer magazine and receive plaques from ADS Hancor Inc. Ohio Farmer magazine has sponsored the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards since the program’s inception. Nominations are sought annually between January and May, and Ohio farming families are encouraged to apply. For more information or to apply, individuals can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

2019 Winner profiles

Area 1 Winners — Kurt Farms has more than 470 acres in Hardin County, raising corn and soybeans. In 2014, Kurt Farms worked with the Hardin Soil and Water Conservation District and The Nature Conservancy to install 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 to educate 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, and political representatives. Kurt Farms was named the 2018 Hardin SWCD Cooperator of the year in 2018.

Area 2 Winners — Rick and Janice Brill of Brill-View Farms have more 1,800 acres in Lorain County used for corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa. They recently sold the 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 the 4Rs with both fertilizer and manure applications. Brill-View Farms has hosted many farm tours for school groups and dairy groups through the Holstein Association. Rick is a member of the Lorain County Farm Bureau, Sunrise Cooperative board of directors, and Lorain County Dairy Auction Committee.

Area 3 Winners — Doug and Beth McConnell farm 482 acres in Muskingum County, raising corn and soybeans. They 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 have also implemented rotational grazing for their cow/calf herd. The McConnell Family Farm won the Muskingum SWCD Resource Conservationist of the Year in 2018. They are Muskingum County Farm Bureau members.

Area 4 Winners — Timothy and Lynn Miller have more than 2,400 acres in Logan County used for no-till corn and soybeans. Farm Bureau members, the Millers apply their own fertilizer, using variable rates based on field needs identified with grid soil sampling and yield monitoring.  Besides doing their own fertilizer application and spraying, the Millers install their own subsurface drainage as needed. The Miller family has hosted the Top of Ohio Ag tour to educate the non-ag community about agriculture. The Miller family was the Logan SWCD Cooperator of the year in 2015.

Area 5 Winners — Fred and Kristy Walters farm 335 acres in Hocking County with 203 acres managed as a 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 cows. 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. In addition to the forests and grasslands, the Walters have planted pollinator plots and wildlife food plots. The plots help support deer, turkeys, and other wildlife on the farm. The Walters have been cooperators with Hocking SWCD for 39 years.

Photo caption: Pictured are Kurt Farms of Hardin County; Rick and Janice Brill of Lorain County; Doug and Beth McConnell of Muskingum County; Timothy and Lynn Miller of Logan County; and Fred and Kristy Walters of Hocking County. Photo by Kelli Milligan Stammen