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.