Columbiana County: Swope family wins SWCD award


HANOVERTON, Ohio – The Columbiana Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors had no trouble selecting the 2003 Cooperator of the Year.
Many of them had worked with the award recipient when he was the district’s first full-time employee.
Kevin Swope and his wife, Sarah, received the conservation honor at the district’s annual banquet Oct. 21 at United Local High School.
The couple and their children, Caleb, Rebecca and Hannah, operate Heritage Lane Farm near Winona.
Buffalo herd. Kevin, who is now the district conservationist for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Carroll County, developed an intensive rotational grazing system on the 53-acre for the couple’s 40 head of buffalo.
In addition to breeding stock, the Swopes raise the buffalo for the retail meat market, selling product private treaty and through farmers’ markets.
In developing the pasture paddocks, Kevin Swope planted grasses with varying seasons, like native switchgrass, to extend the grazing season.
Pipelines carry water to each pasture cell and he’s developed stock tanks so he could fence the cattle out of the creek and minimize erosion and potential pollution. A grass filter strip now lines the creek and streambank stabilization plantings help curb erosion.
Swope also installed heavy use pads in the feeding area to reduce erosion and runoff.
Education focus. Both Kevin and Sarah, who is a substitute teacher in the United Local district, feel strongly about ag education and natural resources education and list conservation education as one of their personal long-term goals. They’ve opened their farms to Scouts and 4-H groups, farm groups and hosted the Columbiana County drive-it-yourself farm tour.
Meaningful. Pete Conkle, who succeeded Swope as the district’s program coordinator, presented the award.
“It means a lot to me to be able to do this,” Conkle told his mentor, Swope. “I want to thank you for what you’ve taught me.”
Likewise, Swope acknowledged that this award meant a great deal to him and his family.
“We practice what we preach,” he added.
District work. Conkle outlined the district’s work in the last 12 months, prefacing his overview with this: “We’ve had quite a workload since the last time we’ve seen you.”
Livestock owners participating the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, received cost-share to install practices that targeted environmental protection. Conkle said several projects included the installation of heavy use pads, or improved access roads.
The district also worked with a horse operation to install a heavy use pad.
Grassed waterways, which Conkle called the district’s “bread and butter,” were hammered by the spring and then early fall rains. Only five were installed because of weather constraints, and several that were installed were blown out when torrential rains fell before the grass grew.
The district helped with the installation of eight spring developments or livestock troughs.
The district staff and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel tabled some projects and worked with emergency situations in several townships following the early September floods that hit the county.
During the year, the district hosted the northeastern Ohio district envirothon at the Kent State University branch in Salem last May. The event drew more than 350 students.
The district also participated in the annual education days for county fifth graders at Highlandtown Lake and Wildlife Area.
Big tree. The district combed the county for the largest sycamore in its big tree contest.
Seventeen nominated trees vied for the top honor, judged by their crown spread, height and circumference.
This year’s Big Tree was owned by Klaus and Valerie Forster, nominated by John Harris of Salem.
The sycamore had a crown spread of 97 feet, a height of approximately 100 feet and measured 18 feet, 8 inches in circumference.
Board election. Joe Stryffeler of Butler Township and Glenn Whiteleather of West Township were each re-elected to the board of supervisors.
Jeremy Kohler of West Township was also on the ballot.
Ron Ramey, retired educator and principal, shared a program on outhouses as well as his humorous account of days gone by.
(Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 1-800-837-3419 or at


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!