WALNUT CREEK, Ohio — This year’s winner of the fifth-grade farm tour essay contest wrote an account “unlike any we’ve ever had before,” Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Harold Neuenschwander remarked.
His comments were made during the district’s annual banquet Nov. 19 at the Carlisle Village Inn in Walnut Creek. But he wasn’t putting down the young girl who wrote it.
Marris Hoffee, a fifth-grader at Lakeville Elementary School, came to the podium and read her creative recount of the tour called I’m coyote.
The essay portrayed the point of view of a coyote, and the observations this crafty, carnivorous mammal may have made from a day spent at Tom and Sarah Miller’s Holmes County beef farm.
From farm safety to farm production and decades of change in farm size, Marris’ essay combined humor and fact to introduce readers to the curious, primitive nature of a prowling coyote, while at the same time sharing all that she had learned.
Students from West Holmes and East Holmes, as well as Holmesville Elementary schools participated in the annual tour.
Taking second place was Brooke Stutzman, of Walnut Creek Elementary School, and third went to Angela Miller, of Chestnut Ridge Elementary School.
The Friend of Conservation Award went to Bob Ramseyer, who helped form the Alpine Cheese Nutrient Trading Program — a collaborative effort to help the country’s exclusive producer of Jarlsberg cheese expand operations and reduce its ratios of phosphorous discharge.
Alpine Cheese collaborated with the Holmes SWCD, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center to complete the project, which allowed the company to expand operations and later provided a model for farmers within the county.
The Conservation Farm Award went to Steven Hershberger and his family, of state Route 643 near Farmerstown.
Tim Brumme was re-elected to the board of supervisors and Ferman Wengerd was newly elected.
Members still serving terms include Jim Croskey Jr., Jason Schuch and Harold Neuenschwander.
The district also honored Mike Fair, who had been a board member since 2001 and decided not to seek re-election.
The district accomplished many of its conservation-specific goals this year, which led to reducing the impact on water quality from livestock farms, reducing sedimentation to water bodies and increasing public awareness of conservation issues. Sixteen farmers participated in the district’s cover crop program, seeding nearly 1,600 acres to oats, more than 750 to rye and more than 200 to rye grass.
Considering that bare ground loses an average of 1.5 tons of soil per year, officials figure the county saved 3,873 tons of soil with the cover crop program.
The county also continues many high rankings in the state, being first in the number of licensed dairy farms (counting Grade A and Manufacturing grade milk), second in farms with $1,000 or more in annual sales, and second in acres harvested of both oats and hay.
Holmes County fifth-graders Angela Miller (left), Brooke Stutzman and Marris Hoffee show the trophies they won in the essay contest for the Tom Graham Fifth-Grade Farm Tour. Hoffee took first place, giving a coyote’s perspective of farming.