Marilyn and Lee Ellers, owners of Sparrow's Song Farm near Houston, Del., recently received Delaware's 2012 Environmental Stewardship Award. The honor, announced during Delaware Ag Week, recognized the family for their efforts to improve water quality and reduce nutrient runoff.
"Marilyn and Lee Ellers represent the best traditions of agricultural innovation, taking action to protect and preserve our environment," says Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. "The work that they and other farmers are doing is vital to helping improve our water quality. The early signs we are seeing indicates that it is paying off."
The Kent County couple purchased the 250-acre farm from Marilyn's family in 2005 to expand their poultry operations, and the property is enrolled in Delaware's Farmland Preservation Program. They have the capacity for about 125,000 chickens, growing for Amick Farms.
Best management practices
Here's a quick list of the BMPs put in place to reduce nutrient runoff and improve the farm's environment:
•Installed a concrete pad to cover the area between their poultry house and manure shed to control spillage;
•Maintain buffer zones around ditches;
•Have a housekeeping plan to clean heavy-use concrete pads;
•Planting a tree windbreak; and
•Creating a habitat for whitetail deer.
They are certified as private nutrient handlers by the Delaware Nutrient Management Program. The farm has a five-year comprehensive nutrient management plan in place, and holds a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation permit.
Runners-up included Two Paws Farm near Bridgeville, owned by Kathy Willms, who grows poultry for Perdue Farms; the Herman Smith Jr. Farm, Clayton, which grows poultry for Allen-Harim Foods; and Hidden Acres Farm near Millsboro, owned by Paul T. Baker, who grows poultry for Mountaire Farms.
The Ellenses will receive $1,000, a plaque and a sign for their farm. The runners-up will receive $500, plaques and signs.
The awards are supported by Allen-Harim Foods, Amick Farms, Mountaire Farms and Perdue Farms.