Ohio farmers receive awards for conservation stewardship

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COLUMBUS – Seven farmers who have implemented conservation and resource stewardship management practices received this year’s Environmental Stewardship Awards.
Award winners included: Robert Wolfinger family, Fairfield County, beef; Charles Slagle, Highland County, sheep; Neil and Diane Rhonemus, Clinton County, swine; Steve Hartzell and Leonard Kropp/Cal-Maine Foods, Darke County, poultry; Gary Shick/Shick Farms, Hardin County, soybeans; Richard Flax family/Gain and Grain Farm, Clark County, corn; and Sutton Farms, Harold “Jake” and Susan Sutton, Jefferson County, dairy.
The awards were sponsored by the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Corn Growers Association, Ohio Pork Producers Council, Ohio Poultry Association, Ohio Soybean Association, Ohio Sheep Improvement Association and Ohio Livestock Coalition, and presented at the recent coalition industry symposium and annual meeting.
Fits all sizes. Three of the recipients are small to medium-sized farming operations while the other four are medium to large-sized operations that focus on commercial commodity production.
Shick Farms consists of more than 1,100 acres and has utilized a variety of cropland management practices for more than 40 years to protect environmental quality.
Practices developed and implemented include no-till and strip till production practices in combination with integrated pest management, cover crops, sprayer calibration, soil sampling and pesticide reduction programs to ensure protection and improvement of our natural resources.
Cal Maine Foods works with its customers who utilize manure from its poultry operations as fertilizer for their crop production enterprises. Global position satellite technology is utilized to match-up soil and manure test analyses with crop nutrient needs.
Recommended setback distances from waterways, ditches, streams, neighboring properties, roads and wells are followed during all application events.
Gain and Grain Farm is owned, operated and managed by members of the Richard Flax Family and consists of 6,000 market hogs in a wean-to-finish system with crop enterprises consisting of 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.
Three of the farm’s tracts have moderate slopes that must be managed to minimize erosion. Several miles of grass waterways as well as 9 acres of buffer strips have been installed for this purpose, as well as the use of no-till and minimum tillage crop production practices.
By developing and following an approved manure management plan for the swine operation, the farm no longer buys commercial phosphorus or potassium fertilizers, and has reduced its need for nitrogen fertilizer.
The Robert Wolfinger Family was an early adapter and innovator in utilizing summer planted oats for extended grazing throughout the entire winter.
To protect water quality and prevent nutrient run-off, the Wolfinger family installed a settling basin and filter strip at their 300-head cattle feedlot, as well as a heavy use pad with access road for their 100-plus head herd of brood cows.
They have also utilized conservation tillage and contour strips on their row crop acres for many years.
Sutton Farms, owned and operated by Harold “Jake” and Susan Sutton, have incorporated Managed Intensive Grazing (MIG) practices into their dairy farming operation. Additional management changes include significant expansion of the milking herd and land utilized for both crops and grazing.
With more than one-half of the farm in woodlands and with profitable timber sales a goal of the operation, best management practices (BMPs) are followed that protect the timber and provide suitable habitat for wildlife.
Eight springs have been developed on the farm to provide water for the livestock, and stream banks have been cleaned-up to ensure protection of sensitive riparian areas.
No-till crop production practices and cover crops are utilized to prevent erosion and run-off and protect water quality.
Slagle Farm is owned, operated and managed by Charlie and Jan Slagle, and consists of 175 acres and a flock of more than 150 Katahdin ewes.
During the past five years Slagle Farm has converted approximately half of its acreage to grass to be utilized in an intensive grazing program for the ewes and lambs.
To protect Buckskin Creek and one of its tributaries that flows through the eastern portion of the farm, the Slagles have installed 30-foot buffer strips on the creeks’ banks, as well as high-tensile electric fence to protect the riparian corridor and enhance wildlife habitat.
Neil and Diane Rhonemus – After spending several years in the purebred swine business, Neil and Diane ventured into commercial pork production four years ago when they built a 2,000-head wean to finish operation on their farm located near Lynchburg in Clinton County.
Rhonemus Farms follows an approved Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) in storing, handling and applying manure, which includes setbacks from streams, waterways, ditches and neighboring properties.
The pork production site has been graded to channel run-off, which further protects water quality, and an approved compost facility has been constructed on the farm.
The farm also monitors and tests all wells on the farm to ensure that water quality is being protected.

Environmental Stewardship
Award winners

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