NEW CASTLE, Pa. – The Lawrence County Conservation District recently held its annual awards luncheon at Hoss’ Steak & Sea House in New Castle.
Special awards were presented to area teachers, farms and other supporters of the district’s work.
Farmer award. Grassycrest Farm in Plain Grove Township, operated by the Richard and Blanche Kind family, took home honors as Conservation Farm of the Year.
The Kinds are involved in the Ag Encounter program and the Lawrence County Country Tour. Grassycrest Farm has been the site of farm tours and legislative meetings.
The Kinds participate in the Tri-State Tillage Conference and have adopted no-till on many of their acres.
Most recently, they have installed over 5,000 feet of stream fencing with two stabilized stream crossings. This 6.4 acres of new riparian buffer keeps animals out of the stream while still gives them access to water, and has dramatically improved the quality of water on the farm.
Other conservation measures established on the farm are stripcropping, grassed waterways, water control structures, subsurface drainage, a manure storage facility, and watering facilities.
Education. The Educator of the Year award was presented to Candee Hovis, a science teacher at Laurel Area High School.
Hovis and a team of her students have been regular participants at the Lawrence County Envirothon for the past several years, a competition at which high school students compete in their knowledge of aquatics, forestry, wildlife, soils, and a current issue that changes every year.
Hovis has also set up a Envirothon study area in the classroom to study the issues important to the contest. Laurel teams have won the county event the past two years and have been competitive at the state level.
Hovis and her students have volunteered to monitor the bluebird trail at West Park, the county nature center managed by the Lawrence Conservation District, and have started a Natural Science Society at the school.
Volunteerism. Sheila McBeth of Slippery Rock Township was recognized with a Volunteer of the Year award.
She has been involved with conservation programs since the early 1990s and has attended the Penn Soil Resource Conservation and Development Council meetings. She is secretary of the council.
She has declined to be enrolled as a USDA Earth Team volunteer which would provide her with some credit for her volunteer hours.
Ohio recipient. The other Volunteer of the Year award went to New Waterford, Ohio, farmer Myron Wehr.
Wehr operates several farms and is dedicated to the conservation way of farming. He has been a friend to the Lawrence Conservation District for years and has been instrumental in helping to plan and carry out successful field events.
He is also a past president of the Tri-State Tillage Conference and continues to be a major organizer of the event.
On his farm, he plants test plots every year and participates with ongoing studies with the universities.
In addition, he also has installed other conservation practices such as lakeside and stream buffers on his property to protect water quality and regularly invites visitors to his farm to demonstrate these practices.
Urban award. This year, for the first time, the Lawrence Conservation District presented an award to a group for promoting rural issues to an urban audience.
The recipient of the Urban Conservation award is the Lawrence County Extension.
The Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lawrence County has been an innovative force in reaching the urban school children of the county with the Ag Encounter project.
Initially started with a grant, the program involves teaching students where their food supply comes from through day-long hands-on programs.
Group award. The Lawrence County Fair is the recipient of the Conservation Organization of the Year award.
The fair board hosted a meeting between the conservation district and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff to discuss local conservation issues.
Other groups have also benefited from the board’s involvement.
They have excavated soil pits to be used for FFA land judging, hosted a soil training workshop for NRCS and conservation district personnel, hosted an Ag Encounter program for urban school children, and provided display space for various conservation agencies.
In addition, they have installed conservation practices as they continue to improve the fairgrounds.
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