Conservation farm reaping rewards of environmental teamwork

COLUMBUS – Efforts are under way to complete a construction program that will help communities learn more about agricultural drainage, conservation and water quality.

The Ohio Land Improvement Contractors Association, the Seneca County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Heidelberg University Water Quality Lab are working together to repair vital conservation structures and build a special farm drainage research facility at the Miller Conservation Farm near Tiffin, Ohio.

The program will be highlighted at the Ohio Land Improvement and Conservation Construction Field Days, June 22-23.

Land legacy.

Before his death, Seneca County resident Maynard Stonebraker bequeathed an 80-acre tract of land in the southeast corner of Pleasant Township to the Seneca County SWCD. His only request was that the location be kept as a farm and nature preserve where members of the community could learn about and research conservation farming practices and wildlife.

“We’re working to achieve Maynard Stonebraker’s primary goal,” said Ann Keefe, Seneca County SWCD wildlife specialist. “Over the past several years many community groups have dedicated a lot of time and effort to repair, reclaim and improve several parts of the farm.”

Keefe said students from area grade schools and Heidelberg University, community groups such as the Boys Scouts, Pheasants Forever, the Izaak Walton League, OSU Extension and other interested people use the site for field study, education, recreational and other projects promoting conservation and nature.

Needs attention.

But two of the Miller Farm’s three ponds need repair, according to Lynn Eberhard, Seneca County SWCD technician. The spillway on one pond is about to wash away and the main pond needs work, too. Its dike needs to be repaired and years of sediment buildup have drastically reduced it holding capacity.

Terry McConnell of Terry McConnell Excavating near Bellevue will be working prior to the June field day to repair both ponds and reclaim the stream that connects them together.

Over the next few weeks leading up to the field days several more OLICA contractors will be in to repair the spillway, clean sediment from the main pond, and use the latest erosion control land remediation techniques to stabilize the waterways.

During the field day, members will be putting finishing touches on the site.

Len Kirian of Len Kirian Ditching near New Riegel is coordinating work performed by several contractors installing systematic subsurface drainage systems in close to 40 tillable acres located on the farm.

Water quality study.

On the farm’s largest single field, a special collection system designed by the Heidelberg University Water Quality Lab will be used to gather subsurface drainage samples, compare subsurface drainage flow with surface runoff and conduct other water quality research projects.

About the field days. During this year’s field days, the public can watch equipment in action and explore a variety conservation construction techniques at a safe distance.

Also, special displays and hands-on demonstrations concerning small pond habitats, field tiling and GPS satellite surveying techniques are also highlighted.

For more information on the Ohio Land Improvement and Conservation Construction Field Days, contact the Seneca County SWCD at 419-447-7073 or the association at 614-249-8150.

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