Ohio farm families honored for conservation efforts

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Conservation awards winners
Casey Clemens, Morgan County, was one of the regional conservation award winners.

LONDON, Ohio — Federal, state and local efforts to address water quality and nutrient management framed the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards at the Farm Science Review this year.

This year’s winners, representing the five soil and water conservation districts in the state, were Gerald and Cheryl Whipple of Ottawa County; Steve and Beth Fulton of Medina County; Casey Clemens of Morgan County; Bruce and Carol Goodwin of Warren County; and Karl and Kevin Elder of Fairfield County.

“What these five families are doing is what we all should be doing,” said James Zehringer, Ohio Department of Natural Resources director.

“Some raise crops, some raise crops and livestock, but they are all using practices each of us should be to using to help water quality in Ohio and keep nutrients on the land and farms for future generations.”

Providing tools

Michael Bailey, chief of the ODNR division of soil and water resources, said the agency’s goal is to provide farms with the tools needed to address conservation issues.

And while the issues may have changed, the challenge of putting conservation efforts into action is not far removed from when farmers were asked to consider such then-new concepts as windbreaks and crop rotation to solve erosion problems during the Dust Bowl.

“Today, water quality is being addressed by controlled drainage structures, cover crops and nutrient management,” Bailey said. “The one constant, though, is the willingness of farmers to accept these practices. These award winners embody that spirit.”

ODNR spokesperson Stephanie Leis pointed out that many of the award winners host events at their farms, further educating the community on effective land conservation efforts.

Regional conservation award winners Gerald and Cheryl Whipple, Ottawa County
Regional conservation award winners Gerald and Cheryl Whipple, Ottawa County

2014 winners

The Whipple family farms 300 acres of corn soybeans and wheat in Ottawa County and has installed surface and sub-surface drainage tile, as well as implementing site-specific soil testing variable rate fertilizer application, no-till, filter strips, erosion control structures, cover crops and crop rotation.

Steve and Beth Fulton, Medina County, regional conservation award winners.
Steve and Beth Fulton, Medina County, regional conservation award winners.

The Fultons raise dairy cows and farm 680 acres of primarily soybeans, forages and wheat. The family manages runoff by rerouting water through diversions, water and sediment control basins, roof gutters, settling basin, and filter strips.

Casey Clemens, Morgan County, was one of the regional conservation award winners.
Casey Clemens, Morgan County, was one of the regional conservation award winners.

Casey Clemens farms more than 1,300 acres of corn, soybeans, barley, and hay and also raises cattle. He has been implementing conservation plans including no-till, cover crops, crop rotation, and the installation of livestock exclusion fencing around streams and wood lots from the time he started farming.

Regional conservation award winners Bruce and Carole Goodwin, Warren County
Regional conservation award winners Bruce and Carole Goodwin, Warren County

Bruce and Carole Goodwin farm more than 2,000 acres of soybeans, corn, wheat and hay, as well as raise livestock on their Warren County farm. The Goodwins’ conservation practices have included cover crops, grassed waterways and crop rotation, and the family was an early innovator of using no-till in the 1980s due to the fragile soil in their area.

Regional conservation winners Karl (at podium) and Kevin Elder, Fairfield County.
Regional conservation winners Karl (at podium) and Kevin Elder, Fairfield County.

Karl and Kevin Elder raise cattle and grow corn, soybeans and wheat on more than 1,500 acres. In addition to cover crops, crop rotation, filter strips and livestock exclusion fencing, the Elders’ techniques include 100 percent no-till.

“When my father died, he said ‘take care of it,’” said Gerald Whipple, echoing the sentiments of each of the winners. “He was talking about the water and the land.”

The Conservation Farm Family Awards program, co-sponsored by Ohio Farmer and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, was created in 1984 to recognize Ohio farm families for their dedication to natural resources and their efforts to conserve soil, water, woodland and wildlife on the land they farm. The program has honored 161 farms.

The awards were presented Sept. 18 during the Farm Science Review in London, Ohio.

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