Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District: Baltes earns top cooperator honor

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CANFIELD, Ohio – Natural resource conservation and education is the name of the game at the Mahoning Soil and Water Conservation District – and cooperators even played “conservation bingo” at their annual meeting to prove it.

The district held its annual awards banquet and election Nov. 14 at Colonial Catering in Canfield. Approximately 100 cooperators and friends of the district attended.

When it comes down to resource conservation, however, the district is all business. It works with individual homeowners, landowners with large or small tracts, contractors and educators to raise awareness of ways to preserve and protect natural resources and the environment.

Top cooperator. Andy Baltes of Baltes Farms in North Jackson received the district’s Cooperator of the Year award for conservation practices he has implemented on his 375-acre dairy farm.

Baltes, who is milking approximately 80 head of Holsteins, also raises corn, soybean, wheat and hay. He has been a cooperator since 1990, although he has been following conservation methods for much longer, tracing the steps of his father, Bill, who became a cooperator with the district in 1952.

Baltes first installed tiling in a field in the 1970s, and has been improvement other farm tracts ever since, completing nearly 150 acres of tile projects to improve water drainage and prevent run-off. He has also installed grassed waterways, including catch basins, to minimize erosion.

He no-tills his wheat and soybeans and after trying no-till on his corn acreage, switched to a minimum tillage in his corn to incorporate a pass with the chisel plow in the fall.

Tree farm. Baltes has also worked with Division of Forestry service forester Jim Elze to develop a woodland improvement plan for his farm. He conducted a selective harvest on a 14-acre woodlot and also did a selective thinning on another hardwood stand. His work earned his farm certified tree farm status in the early 1990s.

Baltes previously received the Woodland Steward award, presented by the Ohio Division of Forestry.

Installed wetland. In a 10-acre corner of his farm, Baltes recently developed a wetland, after receiving input from the Division of Wildlife and the district.

Baltes and his wife, Valerie, have one son, A.J., a sixth grader.

Young scientist. During the district’s annual banquet, district education specialist Mary June Emerson recognized Nadine Masagara and her award-winning science fair project.

Masagara, now a freshman at Cardinal Mooney High School, conducted tests on water quality in Yellow Creek as part of a eighth grade science fair project. The district selected her project from others at the area competition at Youngstown State University for its $50 U.S. Savings Bond award as best conservation project.

The youth also earned a berth in the state science fair competition, where she scored a superior and earned numerous awards, including recognition from the Ohio Federation of Conservation Districts. She was selected as one of 400 participants, out of 17,000, to receive the Discovery Channel’s Young Scientist award.

Emerson also introduced members of the Youngstown Home Learners team that placed third in the Area II Envirothon hosted by Mahoning SWCD last spring. The event drew 77 teams from 15 northeastern Ohio counties.

The Youngstown team went on to place seventh in the state competition.

Top teacher. Emerson presented the district’s Conservation Teacher of the Year award to Elaine Poklemba, science and reaching teacher for grades five through eight at the New Hope Academy in Youngstown.

Poklemba has attended numerous conservation education workshops and training and has encouraged students to participate in conservation events and contests. Through hands-on activities and field trips, she has emphasized environmental issues in all of her teaching units, Emerson said.

District review. The district assisted agricultural landowners in a variety of conservation measures, including conservation plans, nutrient management plans and livestock waste plans.

Ongoing watershed education activities include a riparian conservation easement program, which currently has 325 acres enrolled; volunteer stream monitoring; and a riparian tree planting cost-share program. Approximately 600 people attended a watershed festival held in August.

The district also works in urban and suburban areas to encourage erosion control on active construction or development sites.

During the annual meeting’s election, Duane Moff was elected to the district’s board of supervisors.

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