Portage Co. puts SWCD up in lights

KENT, Ohio – Motown songbirds and starlets jazzed up Portage County conservationists before they got down to business last week at the annual Soil and Water Conservation District meeting.

Although not of Hitsville U.S.A. fame, the budding prospects from Aurora High Schools’ show choir set the stage for a night of conservation highlights.

The spotlight zeroed in on Congress Lake Farm of Suffield, Ohio, which stole the show as the outstanding conservationist of the year.

Kenny and Linda Rufener and their sons, Mike and Kenny Jr., carry on the family’s 150-year farming tradition.

In addition to milking 455 cows, the family farms 2,500 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans, oats and alfalfa. Their conservation practices, however, took center stage.

In the past year the family installed 48,000 feet of drainage tile on the cropland. Another 4,000 feet of waterway, covering 3.2 acres, was also established.

The Rufeners store parlor waste and manure in a lagoon and spread it on the cropland three times a year. The family furthers their conservation efforts with minimum tillage.

Education. In other county conservation news, district educator Jennifer White discussed a stream monitoring program beginning this year.

Seventeen classrooms adopted a stream they will monitor twice a year for macroorganisms, which affect water quality.

Stormwater education in schools continues the district’s theme of starting conservation knowledge in the classroom.

Tyler Gallagher took home the poster contest award. More than 1,000 students participated in the contest, which centered on farmland preservation.

Gallagher is a sixth grader at James A. Garfield School.

Conservation news. The district raised more than $20,000 in its annual tree sale, with more than 6,000 packets sold, which was down slightly from last year.

According to Jim Bierlair, 4,000 feet of waterway went in this year and the district helped put in three ponds in the county, one of which was 4.5 acres.

The district received five animal waste complaints this year, Bierlair said. Three of those were from alpaca and/or horse operations and were legitimate complaints.

He said the district will continue to work with and educate these farmers.

Water issues. Much of the county’s efforts this year focused on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and the second phase of the program, both required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The system’s purpose is to reduce non-point source pollution. It’s up to the individual townships to raise the money for systems designed to handle stormwater runoff.

Several Portage County townships have joined and are working with county commissioners and the soil and water district to come up with a single plan.

In addition, this is the first year the district has been working on four drainage projects where landowners are working together to come up with a neighborhood solution, Bierlair said.

Programs. Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Ed Moon said the Wetland Reserve Program was this year’s most successful and popular program. Six easements, totaling 328 acres, were approved and five more applications are in various stages.

One application was approved for the Grassland Reserve Program, and the service’s staff is trying to get the word out on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Supervisors elected to three-year terms include W. Dale Miller and Dennis Wise.

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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