LONDON, Ohio — Five Ohio farm families were honored for their conservation efforts during an awards ceremony at the Farm Science Review Sept. 22. This was the 38th year for the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards program, which is coordinated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation.
This year’s award winners are: the Settlage family, of Auglaize County; the Baltes family, of Mahoning County; the Felumlee family, of Licking County; Jon Branstrator, of Warren County; and the Brown family, of Highland County.
Matt Peart, president of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, said the honored families are “the rock stars of conservation.”
They’re looking toward the future with their efforts, he said. “It’s not what we’re doing for our generation. It’s what our generation is doing for the next generation.”
Conservation is a long-standing tradition for the Settlage family, of Auglaize County. John Settlage and his wife, Laurie, farm about 500 acres, along with their son, Jordan, and Jordan’s wife, Dana.
John told the crowd at the awards ceremony that he learned the value of conservation from his own father, Lester, who received a Conservation Farm Family Award in 1993. Jordan is the sixth generation on the farm and Jordan’s young children are the seventh, so John wants to protect the land for them.
“It’s not just for my life to enjoy. It’s for the perpetuation of good agricultural lands,” he said.
The Settlages farm about 500 acres and run a 280-cow dairy. They use organic production practices for their grass-based dairy and crop production.
A.J. Baltes, who farms with his father, Andrew, said he used to wonder why his father bothered with conservation practices.
“I never understood why my dad did it,” he said during the awards ceremony. “Now I have my own son — he’ll be the fifth generation — and I understand why he did it now.”
The Balteses farm about 1,000 acres in Mahoning County, raising corn, soybeans and wheat. They use no-till and cover crops to protect and improve their soils. They have also put in wetlands and pollinator plots.
To help others establish their own pollinator plots, they’re growing, harvesting and selling pollinator seed mixes.
Claylick Run Farm
David Felumlee, who runs Claylick Run Farm, in Licking County, said he also learned valuable conservation lessons from his father, who was an early adopter of no-till in the 1960s.
Sustainability is important to maintain profitability for the next generation, he said. Protecting soil and water quality is also simply the right thing to do. “
Everyone lives downstream from someone,” he said.
David and his wife, Dawn, farm about 1,300 acres, with the help of their adult daughter, Keri, and son, Kacey. They raise corn, soybeans and hay, and also run a 130-cow, cow-calf operation. Their conservation practices include rotational grazing and cover crops as well as no-till.
Fifth generation farmer Jon Branstrator has been using conservation practices on his 175-acre farm since he took on the farm in 1995. He focuses on production of food-grade grains and uses his own farm-scale solar field to produce electricity for the farm. To manage drainage, he’s installed waterways planted with pollinator host species.
Branstrator uses no-till and cover crops to protect and improve his soil.
“In an ideal situation, I never see the soil,” he said.
While his Warren County farm is the smallest in acreage of those honored this year, the conservation practices he uses could be used on larger farms as well, he said. “What I do is totally scalable.”
Brown Family Farm
Nathan Brown is a first-generation farmer, who began farming in 2002. He and his wife, Jennifer, farm about 1,200 acres in Highland County. In addition to raising corn and soybeans, they have a 40-cow, cow-calf operation and a few sheep.
Conservation practices such as no-till offer economic benefits because of the reduced need for labor, fuel and other inputs, Nathan said. To him, however, his children are the most important reason for using conservation practices. He and Jennifer are the parents of 11-year-old twin sons, Luke and Coy, and a 10-year-old daughter, Ella.
“Conservation to me is not about me. It’s about my kids and my grandkids in the future,” Nathan said.
The Conservation Farm Family Awards program recognizes farmers for outstanding work to conserve soil and water, as well as wildlife, woodlands and other natural resources on their land. Each of the five winners recognized received $400 from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. The award program is sponsored by Ohio Farmer magazine, the Ohio Federation of Conservation Districts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the ODA Division of Soil and Water Conservation.
To apply or nominate an outstanding farmer, contact your local soil and water conservation district. Nominations are accepted each year between January and May.
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