HANOVERTON, Ohio — When you drive past Breezy Knoll Farms, you admire the landscaping, the well-tended yard, the clean barn and outbuildings. But the focus at the farm is as much environmental protection as it is beautification.
Tom Cope is the second generation to operate the farm on Depot Road just south of Salem. The third generation includes Grant, who works on the farm with his father, and Clark and Carlton, who work off the farm but also still help out.
The family was honored Oct. 23 as the Columbiana Soil and Water Conservation District’s Cooperator of the Year. The award was presented during the district’s annual meeting at United Local High School. More than 160 people attended the banquet and awards presentation.
The Copes farm 400 owned and rented acres, raising no-till corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. They also milk 40 registered Jersey and Holstein cows, and Grant shows cattle at local, state and national shows.
Most recently, the Copes worked with the local SWCD and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office to develop a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, and secured cost-share funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, to build a concrete manure storage structure.
The Copes also channeled milkhouse wastewater through a new filter strip that is fenced off through the pasture. The strip cleans the milkhouse waste and eliminates the liquid going into the manure storage.
They also completed a concrete access lane next to the manure pit to improve conditions for cattle coming back from pasture to the barn for milking, as well as for equipment using the same path for hauling manure.
The award was presented by Farm Credit Services, which is sponsoring the award across Ohio.
During the banquet, wildife/forestry specialist Matt Brown and program coordinator Pete Conkle reviewed the soil and water conservation district’s work over the past 12 months.
Of note, Brown said, was the increasing assistance to landowners on nuisance wildlife, most frequently deer. He responded to 29 deer damage calls, with damage to traditional farm crops like corn or soybeans, as well as nursery crops.
Brown also assists with pond evaluations and new pond siting, and conducts evaluations of woodlots for Current Agricultural Use Valuation. He is also busy making educational presentations to both youth and adult audiences.
Whole farm evaluations
The Columbiana County district helped design more than 16 acres of CRP waterways, always the backbone of the office’s work, but more and more, said Conkle, their role is to offer a big-picture view of conservation measures on a property.
Particularly when using EQIP dollars, Conkle said, “we’re not just looking at one practice. We need to write the management plan to address all the issues.”
This past year, he and Mitch Cattrell, district conservationist with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service, worked with five approved EQIP contracts, and five forestry EQIP contracts.
The office also assists with landowners receiving cost-share through the Environmental Protection Agency’s grant for horse owners in the Little Beaver Creek Watershed. Conkle said the EPA is now also making those funds available to owners of other livestock within the watershed.
The district also recognized 10 Columbiana County schools that participated in the Area 2 Envirothon. A team from Crestview High School placed 11th out of the 75 teams competing. Team members included Amanda Cresanto, Toby Cory, Heather Kelly, Ryan Valiquette and Hillary McCutchen. The team is coached by Kathy Cattrell.
During the evening’s election, Jeremy Kohler and Rhonda Simmons were both re-elected to the district’s board of supervisors.
David Hanselmann, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Soil and Water Conservation, also spoke briefly to the crowd, thanking varied individuals and groups for their support