Ohio Farmer is honored to salute the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Award winners for 2013. The five families are featured in the September issue of Ohio Farmer and will be recognized during the Ohio Farm Science Review Sept 19. This is the 30th anniversary of the program, which is sponsored by Ohio Farmer and operated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Resources. The Ohio Farm Bureau and Hancor Corp. also co-sponsor the event, which has recognized 156 families.
"This year's winners show the diversity of Ohio farming and the value of soil and water conservation in all types of agriculture," says Tim White, editor of Ohio Farmer. "From a 25-acre diversified suburban operation to a 3,500-acre hill country cattle farm, there is a place and a need for conservation."
The winning operations are the Raber family's Red Hill Farms near Cambridge, the Campbell family's Stone Creek Farms, near Diamond, the Brown family's Brownhaven Farm near New Bremen, the Barber family and C.J. Rowe's grain farm near Mt. Orab and the Weber family's diversified farm near Cincinnati.
Water quality, soil protection, grazing management, woodland management, wildlife habitat, and drainage control are part of an ecological approach that these farms use to enhance their business and assure productive agriculture for future generations.
Red Hill Farms operated by Randy and Marijane Raber includes a 120-cow dairy herd, a 500 cow/calf operation, a feedlot under construction to handle 500 feeders, more than 800 acres of corn and beans, more than 1,500 acres of pasture and about the same amount of hay. Located in an area of the state that is growing pipelines and shale wells, the farm has built more than 25 miles of new fence and multiple watering systems to handle the cattle. "Conservation is an ever evolving process," Randy Raber says. "It's a better way to learn. An open mind can protect our environment and be more profitable."
*Harold and Maureen Campbell's farm adjoins Milton Creek State Park. He and his son Ben run 400 acres of pasture and 175 acres of hay. They raise a herd of 100 cow/calf pairs and feed the calves in a small feedlot. The pasture is divided into 4-acre cells each supplied with its own watering source. In all 36 outlets connected with 16,000 feet of water lines have been built. Water troughs and a mineral feeder are moved along with the cows from cell to cell on a daily basis. "The new technology and advancements for graziers has been amazing," he says. "It's more than you would ever expect."
Water quality problems in Grand Lake St. Marys are bringing increased attention to farming practices in the lake's watershed, but for Brownhaven Farm, protecting water quality is nothing new. The Brown family started farming near New Bremen in 1958 and wrote their initial farm conservation plan shortly thereafter. Over the years, the family has made an on-going effort to adopt new practices that protect water quality and provide habitat for wildlife, explains Lou Brown. "To me what's important is not that you do something one or two years, but that you continue to add to your practices." Lou and his wife, Deb, currently run the family dairy farm along with Lou's brother, Alan, and Alan's wife, Ruth. Their father, Alvin, is still involved with the farm and Lou's son, Tony, began working on the farm full time two years ago. Other members of the third generation help out on the farm as well. The family milks a herd of 240 cows and farms 238 acres, raising corn silage and alfalfa.
Farmers who want to expand may have a hard time finding additional land to rent, but they can still grow by improving the productivity of the land they are already farming. That's the approach Brad Barber and his wife, Susan, are taking as they look to the future of their farm near Mt. Orab. The Barbers and their farming partner C. J. Rowe are working to build better soils by using cover crops and no-till. They're also preventing soil erosion with grass waterways and rock chutes. "Our big focus it to try to improve the ground," Brad explains. The Barbers and Rowe raise no-till soybeans, corn and wheat as well as cover crops on around 1,600 acres. When Brad began planting cereal rye as a cover crop in the early '90s, few other farmers in the area were using cover crops. Although the practice has become more common, Brad would like to see more farmers using them. "A lot of people are kind of fighting them yet," he says. "I don't think they realize the benefits they can get." Having landlords who support his ideas has been a great help, Barber adds. "I have some good landlords and they understand what we're doing."
House lots have replaced many of the farm fields in Clermont County, but when Dan Weber talks about development he's referring to improving his farmland not converting it into house lots. Weber, who farms just east of Cincinnati with his son Doug, uses intensive rotational grazing to manage his pastures. The Webers raise Scottish Highland cattle, crossbred sheep and laying hens, along with a few meat ducks and turkeys. They also raise a few vegetable crops. The Webers subdivide their 25 acres of pasture into paddocks of one and a half to two acres using temporary electric fence. They typically move their cattle to a new paddock every one to three days, depending on growing conditions. Following the cattle, the Webers run sheep through the paddocks, which helps maintain pasture quality, says Dan. "The sheep come through and they prefer the weeds." After the cattle and sheep, the Webers rotate their portable hen house through the pastures as well. Then the paddocks are allowed to rest and regrow for about 40 to 45 days.