Meet the 2021 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards recipients

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2021 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards recipients
The 2021 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards were presented during a ceremony Sept. 23, at the Farm Science Review, near London, Ohio. (Gail Keck photo)

LONDON, Ohio — The five families recognized with 2021 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards each have their own approach to conserving soil, water and natural resources, but they all share an interest in improving their land for future generations. 

Laura Frase, who accepted one of this year’s awards on behalf of her parents, Clifford and Jeannine Miller, said she saw the difference her parents’ efforts made on their farm. Although her father died in March, his efforts continue to benefit the family’s Carroll County farm and their community. 

“How we spend our energy matters,” she said. “If we put our energy into conservation, that energy resonates in tall grass, delicate butterflies, fat calves and sparkling water.” 

As she accepted the award, Frase encouraged farmers to put their own efforts toward better management of their natural resources. “If Dad were here he would challenge you to continue to use conservation on your own farms.” 

Everyone has a part to play, she added. “We’re all in this together and we’re working for a better world for our kids.”

Award ceremony

The 2021 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards were presented during a ceremony Sept. 23, at the Farm Science Review, near London, Ohio. 

The awards program is sponsored by Ohio Farmer magazine, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, The Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the U.S Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Ohio Department of Agriculture Division of Soil and Water Conservation. 

Each of the five winning families received a plaque and a $400 check from the Ohio Farm Bureau. 

Since the awards program was started in 1984, 191 families have been recognized for their conservation practices, as well as their efforts to share their experiences with other farmers and members of their communities. 

In addition to the Millers, this year’s honorees include the Sluss family of Stark County, the Harrod Family of Darke County, the Linne family of Highland County, and the Rodabaugh family, who farm in Hardin and Hancock counties.

Grazing season extenders

Clifford and Jeannine Miller worked together on Miller Ridge Farm for 40 years. Following his retirement from his off-farm job in 2001, Clifford focused his energy on improving their 167 acres of pasture land so he could graze cattle almost year-round. They divided their pastures into 32 paddocks and used managed intensive grazing to extend the grazing season. He and Jeannine also used funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, and Conservation Stewardship Program to improve water quality and manage the woodland areas on the farm. 

Clifford was a founding member of the Eastern Ohio Grazing Council and a member of the Carroll County Soil and Water Conservation District Board for 12 years. The Millers shared their conservation experience by hosting pasture walks and woodland management programs on the farm. 

Cover crop promoters

Sam and Lauren Sluss farm 275 acres in Stark and Carroll counties, producing no-till corn, wheat, soybeans and hay. Each fall they plant about 200 of their crop acres to cover crops. 

The couple has worked to promote cover crops by hosting a stop on the Stark Soil and Water Conservation District’s cover crop field day. They are both fourth generation farmers in Stark County and they are raising a fifth generation on their farm: 4-year-old son Owen and 2-year-old daughter Aliana. 

Holistic grass feeders

Jim and Sheryl Linne, who own White Clover Farms in Highland County, converted their 300 acres from conventional farmland to pasture for their grass-fed beef enterprise. They use holistic management to continually improve their soils and use a program of prescribed grazing to maximize the productivity of their pastures. 

The Linnes work with the Highland Soil and Water Conservation District to host grazing schools and farm tours highlighting the conservation practices they have adopted. 

Manure innovators

The Harrod family, of Darke County, has worked to find better ways to use manure as fertilizer by applying it to growing crops. Studies the family has done in cooperation with Ohio State University researchers show that liquid hog manure injected during the growing season can replace commercial fertilizer. The family includes Tom and Jayne Harrod, who farm along with their son, Korey, and Korey’s wife, Brittany. Son-in-law Sean Gerber helps out on the farm part-time as well. 

The family finishes around 20,000 feeder pigs each year and also operates two turkey starter barns. They farm 1,200 acres of crop ground, raising soybeans and no-till corn, which is used for hog feed. About 300 acres are planted to cover crops each fall. 

Long-term no-tillers

Chris and Gail Rodabaugh, who farm with two of their sons, Clint and Cody, have been using no-till for more than 30 years. They farm about 1,200 acres in Hardin and Hancock counties, producing corn and soybeans. They also use cover crops on part of their land each year and have enrolled about 130 acres in conservation programs to build waterways, wetlands, tree plantings and buffers for quail habitat. 

In addition to helping with the farm, Clint and Cody also operate a custom slaughter business and retail meat shop, Rodabaugh Meats.

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Gail Keck writes from her family farm, near Raymond, Ohio, where she manages the hog and cattle enterprises. She has extensive experience writing about Ohio agriculture and is a graduate of Ohio State University. She can be reached at editorial+gkeck@farmanddairy.com or at 937-578-8534.

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