Ohio’s top conservation farmers honored during Farm Science Review

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The Miller family
The Miller family, of Columbiana County. (Submitted photo)

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Agriculture recognized five families as winners of the 2023 Conservation Farm Family Awards at the Farm Science Review Sept. 21, in London, Ohio.

The five families honored were: Rethmel family, Defiance County; Todd and Melissa Miller, Columbiana County; Julius (Jules) and Jodee Verhovec, Jefferson County; Brent and Jenna Clark, Miami County; and the Wickerham family, Adams County.

“Conservation of our soil and water resources is paramount to the future of agriculture and all the benefits it provides to every Ohioan,” said Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Brian Baldridge. “I am proud to honor the 2023 Ohio Conservation Farm Family Award winners, who have made it their life’s work to conserve soil, water, woodland and wildlife on the land they farm and for their commitment to being good stewards.”

Since 1984, the Conservation Farm Family Awards program has recognized Ohio farm families for their exemplary efforts in conserving soil, water, woodland, wildlife and other natural resources on the land they farm. Conservation farm families also host a variety of educational programs, opening their farms to schools, scout groups, farm organizations and other groups.

“We congratulate these amazing families for their steadfast work of conservation that has direct impacts on their individual farms, their communities and for all of Ohio agriculture,” said Adam Sharp, Executive Vice President of Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “They are an example of what every farmer across the state strives for to ensure a balance between healthy soils and a vibrant Ohio food system.”

The families each receive $400 from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and are featured in the September issue of Ohio Farmer magazine. Ohio Farmer magazine has sponsored the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards since the program’s inception. Nominations are sought annually between January and May, and Ohio farming families are encouraged to apply. For more information or to apply, individuals can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District.

Area 1 Winner — Roy, Rod, Ron and Roger Rethmel, Defiance County
Brothers Roy, Rod, Ron and Roger Rethmel farm 1,335 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat, and raise sows, feeder pigs, market hogs and replacements gilts. The Rethmels use a variety of soil and water resource management practices including 240 acres in cover crops, 1,170 acres in crop rotation, two waterways, and 39 filter strips. In addition, all of their farmed acreage is  under a nutrient management plan. They also use 15 acres in wildlife habitat, and 25 acres in drainage water management. Rod Rethmel was named Cooperator of the Year in 2008 for his conservation work on the farm.

Area 2 Winner — Todd and Melissa Miller, Columbiana County
Todd and Melissa Miller farm 115 acres in hay and pasture and operate a 60-head beef cow operation, which includes bred heifers, bulls and freezer beef. The Miller’s farm includes 19 acres in forestry and uses a multitude of conservation practices including cover crops, filter strips and a wetland with exclusion fence. Additionally, all acres operate under a nutrient management plan and are under grazing management and rotational grazing. The farm also incorporates wildlife habitat and drainage water management through a pond with riparian buffer.

Area 3 Winner — Julius (Jules) and Jodee Verhovec, Jefferson County
Julius and Jodee Verhovec operate a 132-acre farm of pasture and hay on which they incorporate a 41-head cow-calf operation including replacement heifers, bulls and steers. The farm includes 52 acres of woodland and other conservation practices including filter strips and livestock exclusion fencing. The operation also has 61 acres in a grazing management plan and 51 acres in rotational grazing. The Verhovecs received the 2022 Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District Cooperator of the Year award.

Area 4 Winner — Brent and Jenna Clark, Miami County
Brent and Jenna Clark farm 1,376 acres on which they produce corn and soybeans and raise 700 head of feeder cattle on 45 acres of pasture. The Clarks use a variety of conservation and water resource management practices on their land including 20 acres in forestry, cover crops, crop rotation, waterways, livestock exclusion fencing, nutrient management, grazing management and rotational grazing, wildlife habitat, drainage water management and conservation tillage.

Area 5 Winner — Bill, Dan and Mark Wickerham, Adams County
Brothers Bill, Dan and Mark Wickerham farm 220 acres on which they raise 85 head of beef cattle. The Wickerhams use many soil and water resource management techniques on the farm, including 5 acres of livestock exclusion fencing, all acres in a nutrient management plan and grazing management plan, and all acres in rotational grazing including multiple acres in wildlife habitat.

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