A Portage County farmer is getting it right with his land conservation efforts


ATWATER, Ohio — If you are going to do something — do it right. That is the motto of a Portage County farmer and he is working hard to follow it.

Don Smith, of Rootstown Township, has been named one of five winners of the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Award given by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water.

Other winners include Barbara Sinn, Defiance County; Michel Livestock, Muskingum County; Betsy and Larry Moore, Ross County; and Kathy and Steve Frankenberg, Shelby County.

High standards

Smith said he has always told himself that if he was going to farm — he would do it right. And that he has.

Smith farms a total of 1,900 acres and owns around 465 acres. He is primarily a grain farmer, growing corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. He also raises about 100 beef cattle a year and specializes in selling club calves or show cattle that are a cross between Maine Anjou and Angus cattle.

Conservation efforts

Smith uses minimal tillage or no tillage on his crop fields, using a Salford disk and Aerway disk to work the cropland.

He’s also started double cropping oats on his farm. He plants one crop and takes it off as normal, and then he plants a second crop around the first week of August.

He planted the cover crop of oats on 80 acres of his land the past three years. He said he sprayed it to keep the weeds down and then it will be harvested in about a month for oatlage round bales that he’ll feed to his cattle.

“It has a dual purpose. It keeps fields looking nice, conserves the soil, provides a feed source and is easy to round bale,” Smith said.

His conservation efforts don’t stop there, though.

Feeding pads

Smith has also built three heavy use feeding pads, and installed tiling and waterways in some of the fields he owns.

Two of the feeding pads are located directly outside of his barn and the other one is built near a calving area he uses in the winter. The feeding pad is 50 feet by 150 feet. The size of the pads is determined by the Portage Soil and Water Conservation District based on the number of animals. Smith received technical assistance from the SWCD and cost-sharing funds through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to build the pads.

Smith said mud was a problem for his cow operation and the brood cows were difficult to move in the mud.

The feeding pads are the first of their kind for the Portage Soil and Water Conservation District.

Smith said he had used an Environmental Protection Agency-approved steel slag, a bi-product produced by steel mills in driveways around his farm and it worked well, so his proposal, instead of limestone for the pads, was to use the steel slag product, which was a cost-saver.

The SWCD agreed to the change, but if it failed, Smith would be responsible for the whole cost of fixing the problem.

“I was the guinea pig. Luckily, it worked,” Smith said.


Another project that just finished up this spring is the renovation and rebuilding of tile lines on a farm Smith recently purchased.

Before, the land had one 10-inch line moving water to a creek. The system had been in place by the other landowner and was estimated to be around 50 years old.

The Portage Soil and Water Conservation District redesigned the waterways to help move more water out of low lying areas. The area now uses two 8-inch lines to move the water, and some new tiling was installed. In addition, an earth-moving piece of equipment was brought in to excavate some of the ground and trees, and overgrowth was removed from the creekbed to allow water to move through it more freely.

Smith said it was challenge to get the project done and get the farm planted this spring, but he was happy he succeeded. He had no problems with it this summer.

Smith said he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what he has without his wife, Pam at his side. The couple have three grown children and six grandchildren.

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