Holmes SWCD honors conservation efforts

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Jason Schuch and awards
Jaon Schuch recognizes the youth essay winners at the Holmes SWCD banquet Nov. 14.

WALNUT CREEK, Ohio — Over the past several years, Valley Acres organic dairy farm has worked with the Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District to make the family farm more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Located between Walnut Creek and Sugarcreek, along County Road 70, the farm is run by the Yoder family, and includes multiple improvements designed to control nutrient flow, improve nutrient management, and improve the design of the livestock facilities.

For their conservation efforts, the Yoders were presented the 2017 Conservation Farm Award at the annual Holmes SWCD banquet, held Nov. 14 at the Carlisle Inn in Walnut Creek.

Jacob Yoder, along with his wife and five children, operate the farm, which includes 35 Jersey milking cows, 16 replacement heifers, and 8-10 horses that they use for farming and transportation.

Holmes SWCD Water Technician Joe Chirstner presented the award, and said the Yoders have completed a number of specific projects, including the construction of a concrete manure storage structure, adding a roof over the manure storage structure, improving cow traffic lanes to make them more resilient and accessible, installing a feedlot curb and fence to control runoff, and directing feedlot runoff and milk house wastewater to a sediment basin.

Collecting nutrients

The sediment basin allows sediment to settle to the bottom — where it can later be removed — and allows the water to be released into a filter grass strip, where any remaining nutrients are filtered through the soil.

In a written statement, read by Christner, the family thanked the SWCD “for the technical knowledge and program assistance” that led the farm to become much cleaner and more efficient.

The farm also participates in the Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant nutrient trading program, which allows participating members to generate nutrient credits for specific conservation practices.

Friend of conservation

Other awards presented included the Friend of Conservation Award, which went to Jaime Chenevey, the agricultural education teacher at West Holmes High School. Chenevey has taught ag at the high school since 2000, and is a past member of the Hillsdale FFA and an Ohio State University graduate.

The FFA members in her chapter frequently help at SWCD functions, including the fifth-grade farm tour, packing tree seedlings for the annual tree sale, and helping at the local ag appreciation breakfast.

”Jaime is so easy to work with and will do anything she can to help us out,” said Michelle Wood, the Holmes SWCD program administrator. “Her kids are good leaders. We’re always impressed how they just jump in and do what needs done.”

FFA members presenting poster awards
FFA members gave awards to fifth graders who won the farm-tour poster contest.

The FFA members help lead the fifth-grade farm tour, known as the Tom Graham Fifth Grade Conservation Farm Tour. This year’s tour was held at Bill and Bev Wachtels’ Spring Walk Farm, in Nashville.

Fifth graders from across the county are introduced to livestock and crop agriculture, dairy production, conservation and wildlife. After the tour, students write essays about their experience and also design posters to communicate what they learned.

Youth awards

This year’s first-place essay winners were Averee Troyer, Killbuck Elementary, narrative category; and Ohlen Troyer, Walnut Creek Elementary, informative category.

SWCD youth winners
Tierra Berger (left), took first place in the traditional poster contest, from West Holmes. Averee Troyer (center), took first in the narrative essay contest; and Ohlen Troyer took first in the informative essay contest.

This was the 52nd year of the tour, which supervisor Harold Neuenschwander said is “one of the best things” the district does to educate youth.

“I think we influence more children, more people that lasts a lifetime in that one day than we do the rest of the year,” he said.

The poster contest winners, from both West Holmes and Hiland school districts, were Austin Brenneman, Lakeville Elementary; Tierra Berger, Killbuck Elementary; and Joel Miller, Cestnut Ridge Elementary.

Looking back

This year’s banquet also recognized the past, as this was the 70th year of the Holmes SWCD. The district was started in 1947, by a group of ag leaders who decided to work together to improve land and water conservation within the county.

The district was formed as part of the movement started by conservationist Hugh Hammond Bennett, who in the 1930s Dust Bowl led an effort to create locally-led conservation districts. The first was started in his own county, in North Carolina, in 1937, and today there are more than 3,000 conservation districts across the country.

A short documentary of Bennett’s life was shown during the banquet, and Holmes SWCD supervisors encouraged teachers to show the video and discuss conservation in their schools.

Bennett believed that healthy soil was vital to preserving the health of a nation, and that conservation was something every person should be part of.

“Conservation of natural resources is an objective on which all should agree,” he said.

New member: The Holmes SWCD is led by a team of administrative staff, and elected supervisors. The newest supervisor, elected before the banquet, was Errick Flinner.

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