Tag: Conservation

FOUR FINALISTS SELECTED FOR MARYLAND LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD

FOUR FINALISTS SELECTED FOR
MARYLAND LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD

WASHINGTON, October 18, 2021 – Four finalists have been selected for the 2021 Maryland Leopold Conservation Award®.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working lands.

In Maryland, the Leopold Conservation Award is presented by Sand County Foundation with state partners Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Maryland Association of Conservation Districts, and Maryland Farm Bureau Inc. Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award in 23 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

The finalists are:

  • Ordinary Point Farm of Earleville in Cecil County: Frances Bayard’s grain farm along the Chesapeake Bay utilizes cover crops, precision agriculture technology, grassed waterways, crop rotations, and no-till practices to promote soil health and water quality. These conservation practices reduce inputs while maximizing yield. Woodlands and restored shoreline along the Sassafras River provide wildlife habitat.
  • Persimmon Tree Farm of Westminster in Carroll County: At Carolyn Krome’s horse farm, pastures are managed to avoid erosion and over-grazing. Warm season grasses are kept vibrant with prescribed burns. Restored wetlands and streambanks provide wildlife habitat. Five acres of wildflowers are regularly weeded and maintained to attract insect pollinators. Krome has created a showcase for how horse farms can embrace conservation.
  • Rich Levels Grain, Inc. of Galena in Cecil and Kent counties: Twin brothers Allen and Olin Davis are grain and poultry farmers who were early adopters of cover crops. To reduced erosion and compaction, they used aerial planting of cover crops into a double crop soybean system. They’ve also demonstrated the benefits of energy-efficient grain dryers, and adapted to meet stringent rules for managing flock health, and raising birds without antibiotics.
  • Persistence Creek Farm of Faulkner in Charles County: Kevin Warring implements a range of conservation practices at a farm that produces grain, seafood and timber. Riparian buffers were installed to capture nutrients from crop fields, improve water quality and provide nesting habitat for wildlife. Other improvements include planting monarch habitat, tree and shrub plantings, streambank stabilization, and cover crops planted on all fields.

Earlier this year, Maryland landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. The award recipient will be recognized at the Maryland Farm Bureau Annual Convention later this year.

The recipient receives a $10,000 award, and the conservation success found on their farm, ranch or forest will be featured in a professional video.

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Maryland award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

The Leopold Conservation Award is given to farmers, ranchers and forestland owners across the U.S. in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

The Maryland Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Sand County Foundation, Maryland Farm Bureau Inc., Maryland Association of Conservation Districts, Maryland Department of Agriculture, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, Delmarva Chicken Association, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Conservancy, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, ShoreRivers, and The Nature Conservancy.

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LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM

The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). www.leopoldconservationaward.org

THE KEITH CAMPBELL FOUNDATION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment’s mission in the Chesapeake Bay Region is to improve water quality and ecological balance in the Bay and its rivers, as a healthy bay fosters a vibrant regional economy and provides exceptional recreational opportunities and a better quality of life. The Foundation provides approximately $7 million in funding through more than 150 grants annually, and has been funding in the region since 1998. www.campbellfoundation.org

MARYLAND FARM BUREAU®, INC. is a 501(c)(5) federation that serves as the united voice of Maryland farm families. Our organizational strength comes from the active participation of over 12,000 individual and family members who belong to the state’s 23 local county Farm Bureau organizations. Since 1915, Maryland Farm Bureau has been committed to protecting and growing agriculture and preserving rural life. Maryland Farm Bureau is a proud member of the American Farm Bureau® Federation. www.mdfarmbureau.com

MARYLAND ASSOCIATION OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS serves as the voice of Maryland’s 24 soil and water conservation districts on state legislative issues. It also provides a forum for training, policy-making and the exchange of information at their annual and quarterly gatherings. Its mission is to promote practical and effective soil, water, and related natural resources programs to all citizens through individual conservation districts on a voluntary bases through leadership, education, cooperation and local direction.

SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION

Sand County Foundation inspires and empowers a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. www.sandcountyfoundation.org

AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST

American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through its No Farms, No Food message. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families. www.farmland.org

Contacts:
Amber Pearson
Maryland Farm Bureau, Inc. (TSN Communications)
Office: (573) 268-6853
amber@tsncommunications.com 

Jen Nelson
Maryland Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts 
Office: (302) 353-9733
jen.nelson@resourcesmartllc.com

Casey Langan
Sand County Foundation 
Office: (608) 663-4605 ext. 32 
clangan@sandcountyfoundation.org 

Persistence Creek Farm Receives First Maryland Leopold Conservation Award

Persistence Creek Farm Receives First Maryland
Leopold Conservation Award

December 6, 2021 – Persistence Creek Farm of Faulkner has been selected as the recipient of the inaugural Maryland Leopold Conservation Award®.

Kevin and Lauren Warring’s Persistence Creek Farm is a grain, seafood and timber business in Charles County. The Warrings were presented with the $10,000 award at the Maryland Farm Bureau’s Annual Convention in Cambridge on December 6.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners in 23 states for land, water, and wildlife habitat management. In Maryland, the award is presented with Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Maryland Association of Conservation Districts, and Maryland Farm Bureau Inc.

“The diversity of conservation and production practices on the Warrings’ farm elevates the sustainability conversation,” said John Torres, Maryland Farm Bureau Executive Director. “Not only are they protecting the land and waterways, but with the various things they produce (grain, seafood and timber), it harkens back to a time when many had to produce whatever they needed to sustain themselves. The Warrings, who we are proud to call longtime members, are helping to meet the needs of themselves and others, all while protecting our vital natural resources for future generations to do the same.”

“The management decisions farmers make daily not only impact our food supply, but our environment,” said Samantha Campbell, Campbell Foundation  President. “Farmers are essential partners who are too often not commended for the stewardship they provide. We are very pleased to present this award to the Warring family in recognition of their leadership in both agricultural production and advancing practices that benefit the natural world.”

“The Warring family has an admirable legacy of stewardship,” said Bruce Yerkes, Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts President. “MASCD joins our partner organizations in recognizing all of the conservation efforts on their farm, as well as their important voice in sharing their story through farm tours and media outlets.”

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Persistence Creek Farm,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

Earlier this year, Maryland landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. Among the outstanding Maryland landowners nominated for the award were finalists Ordinary Point Farm of Earleville in Cecil County, Persimmon Tree Farm of Westminster in Carroll County, and Rich Levels Grain, Inc., in Cecil and Kent counties. 

The Leopold Conservation Award is given to farmers, ranchers and forestland owners across the U.S. in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

The Maryland Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Maryland Association of Conservation Districts, Maryland Farm Bureau, Inc., Sand County Foundation, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Farm Credit, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Delmarva Chicken Association, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Conservancy, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, ShoreRivers, and The Nature Conservancy.    

ABOUT PERSISTENCE CREEK FARM
When Kevin and Lauren Warring bought their farm in 2009, they set out to leave it better than they found it. Their Persistence Creek Farm has become a confluence of how farming, fishing and forestry businesses can benefit natural resources.  

Healthier soil leads to higher crop yields. Cleaner water leads to higher crab and oyster populations. Agricultural conservation practices are good for the bottom line and natural resources. 

The Warrings take soil seriously. They annually rotate crops of corn, soybean and sorghum to sustain soil fertility. They use no-till or minimum tillage on all fields to reduce run-off. Cover crops are planted on all fields to protect soil microorganisms. Nutrient management plans and annual soil tests minimize fertilizer inputs, and maximize yields by tailoring a crop’s nutrient needs. 

To enhance wildlife habitat and maintain productive forests, the Warrings have utilized financial assistance from the federal Conservation Stewardship Program, and technical guidance from a forester from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. By following a custom forestry plan, thinning acres of forestland has increased timber growth rates for future harvests, while boosting biodiversity and providing wildlife with food and cover.

Acres of shrubs, maple, pine and oak trees have been planted to reduce streambank erosion. Riparian herbaceous buffers that stretch 50 feet on each side of Ross Branch stream, capture nutrients from crop fields, improve water quality, and provide nesting habitat for wildlife.

Two acres of ponds and wetlands provide habitat for frogs, ducks and deer. Food plots of white clover, sunflowers, corn, and soybeans are planted annually. A self-described “flower geek,” Kevin has planted five acres of wildflowers and native grasses in prairie strips to attract Monarch butterflies and other insect pollinators.

A stream-crossing project involved re-sloping banks and installing concrete footers and riprap to reduce erosion. The long-term health of the Potomac and Wicomico rivers has been improved by the more than 100 million spat on shell (baby oysters) the Warrings have helped plant since 2014.

Kevin and his father Francis are both active members of the Charles County Waterman’s Association, which provides public and legislative outreach on fishery regulations. Both have served as associate supervisors for the Charles Soil Conservation District. Kevin’s parents Francis and Joyce have their own farm just 10 miles from Persistence Creek Farm.

Persistence Creek Farm’s enrollment into a perpetual conservation easement permanently preserves its future use for agriculture and forestry, and limits housing or mining development.

Kevin, who has degrees in physics and economics, helped re-establish an FFA chapter in Charles County. The active Farm Bureau member has hosted farm tours for schools and legislators, and appeared on a national conservation-themed podcast.

Kevin also serves as a guide for youth hunting deer, turkey and waterfowl. He shows these hunters and their parents how conservation practices benefit wildlife.

Like Aldo Leopold before him, Kevin teaches others that wildlife is a natural resource that must be managed to ensure its long-term sustainability. He’s also a believer in the inherent land ethic that Leopold first wrote about.

Kevin says the day he and Lauren signed the farm’s deed was a dream come true. Yet he’s quick to note they are just temporary caretakers. He says visible reminders of this are the arrowheads their children frequently find buried across the fields of Persistence Creek Farm.

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LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). www.leopoldconservationaward.org

SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION 
Sand County Foundation inspires and empowers a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. www.sandcountyfoundation.org

AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST 
American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through its No Farms, No Food message. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families. www.farmland.org

THE KEITH CAMPBELL FOUNDATION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment’s mission in the Chesapeake Bay Region is to improve water quality and ecological balance in the Bay and its rivers, as a healthy bay fosters a vibrant regional economy and provides exceptional recreational opportunities and a better quality of life. The Foundation provides approximately $7 million in funding through more than 150 grants annually, and has been funding in the region since 1998. www.campbellfoundation.org

MARYLAND FARM BUREAU®, INC. is a 501(c)(5) federation that serves as the united voice of Maryland farm families. Our organizational strength comes from the active participation of over 12,000 individual and family members who belong to the state’s 23 local county Farm Bureau organizations. Since 1915, Maryland Farm Bureau has been committed to protecting and growing agriculture and preserving rural life. Maryland Farm Bureau is a proud member of the American Farm Bureau® Federation. www.mdfarmbureau.com

MARYLAND ASSOCIATION OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS serves as the voice of Maryland’s 24 soil and water conservation districts on state legislative issues. It also provides a forum for training, policy-making and the exchange of information at their annual and quarterly gatherings. Its mission is to promote practical and effective soil, water, and related natural resources programs to all citizens through individual conservation districts on a voluntary bases through leadership, education, cooperation and local direction. www.mascd.net

Contacts:
Amber Pearson
Maryland Farm Bureau, Inc. (TSN Communications)
Office: (573) 268-6853
amber@tsncommunications.com 

Jen Nelson
Maryland Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts 
Office: (302) 353-9733
jen.nelson@resourcesmartllc.com

Casey Langan
Sand County Foundation 
Office: (608) 663-4605 ext. 32 
clangan@sandcountyfoundation.org 

MDA ANNOUNCES COVER CROP SIGN-UP

MDA Announces Cover Crop Sign-up
Includes Increased Payment Rates and New Cover Crop Plus+ Option

ANNAPOLIS, MD (June 23, 2022) — The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced that mail-in enrollment for this year’s Cover Crop Program runs from July 1-18, 2022. The popular conservation program provides farmers with cost-share grants to help pay for seed, labor, and equipment costs to plant cover crops in the fall to control erosion, recycle nutrients, build soil health, and protect the Chesapeake Bay.

“Several exciting changes have been made to our traditional Cover Crop Grant Program this year,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “We’ve also introduced a new Cover Crop Plus+ option for farmers willing to go the extra mile to build their soil’s health.”

Farmers who enroll in the department’s Traditional Cover Crop Program receive an increased base payment of $55/acre and up to $35/acre in add-on incentives to incorporate cover crops into their fields this fall. The maximum payment (including incentives) to aerial seed cover crops has increased to $95/acre. New this year, a late planting extension has been built into the program for farmers who cannot get their cover crops planted by the November 5 planting deadline. 

Cover crops are essential to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the productivity of Maryland’s farmland. In the fall, cold-hardy cereal grains are planted as cover crops in newly harvested fields. As they grow, cover crops provide a living, protective cover against erosion and nutrient runoff while building the soil’s organic matter for next year’s crop. They can even protect fields from too much or too little rain. Eligible small grains may be mixed with radishes and legumes using a variety of two and three-species mixes to help create diversity. Traditional cover crops may not be harvested; however, they may be grazed or chopped for livestock forage after becoming well established. Farmers who participated in last year’s program will receive registration packets in the mail. Beginning July 1, interested farmers may download applications from the Cover Crop website. To be considered for cost-share, applications should be mailed or dropped off at the local soil conservation district by July 18, 2022. 

A new pilot program, Cover Crop Plus+, is being introduced this year. This program option offers higher incentive payments and more planting choices for farmers who sign a 3-year commitment to plant cover crop mixes and practice conservation tillage to improve soil health. Farmers agree to keep a living root system in enrolled fields for most of the year and manage the cover crop to achieve maximum soil health and water quality benefits. The base payment for this premium incentive program is $115/acre per year. Optional add-on practices can increase the reimbursement rate to $160/acre. To qualify for payment, optional add-ons must be new practices for an enrolled field. 

Enrollment for the Cover Crop Plus+ program runs concurrently with the Traditional Cover Crop Program. Applications will be available on the Cover Crop Plus+ website beginning July 1. To be considered for cost-share, applications should be mailed or dropped off at the local soil conservation district by July 18, 2022. Farmers may participate in both the traditional and Cover Crop Plus+ programs. Certain restrictions apply. 

Maryland’s Cover Crop Program is administered by the department’s Conservation Grants Program and the state’s 24 soil conservation districts. Applicants must be in good standing with the program and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations. Other restrictions and conditions apply. Funding for the 2022-2023 Cover Crop Program is provided by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.

Farmers who have questions or need assistance with their applications should contact their local soil conservation district. For more information, please contact Jason Keppler at (410) 841-5864 or jason.keppler@maryland.gov.

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Follow Maryland Department of Agriculture on Twitter @MdAgDept

Finalists Selected for Maryland Leopold Conservation Award

Finalists Selected for Maryland Leopold Conservation Award

DAVIDSONVILLE, MD. (October 13, 2022) — Three finalists have been selected for the 2022 Maryland Leopold Conservation Award®. 

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water, and wildlife habitat management on private, working lands. 
 
In Maryland, the Leopold Conservation Award is presented by Sand County Foundation with state partners Keith Campbell Foundation for the EnvironmentMaryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, and Maryland Farm Bureau Inc. Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award in 24 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.
 
The finalists are:
  • Long Green Farms Inc. of Rising Sun in Cecil County: Caleb and Alice Crothers operate one of Maryland’s oldest dairy farms. They have planted about 60,000 trees as part of a major streambank restoration project. Cover crops are grown to prevent erosion and build soil health. A new heifer housing facility diverts clean rainwater and has a manure storage system to protect water quality.
  • Mount Pleasant Acres Farms of Preston in Caroline County: Donna Dear and Paulette Green’s farm contains 111 acres of row crops, fruits and vegetables, forests, and wetlands. The farm’s a showcase of forestry management, organic food production, and Black history, as it was a stop along the Underground Railroad. A food forest is providing a habitat for insect pollinators, songbirds and game birds.  
  • Persimmon Tree Farm of Westminster in Carroll County: At Carolyn Krome’s horse farm, pastures are managed to avoid erosion and over-grazing. Warm season grasses are kept vibrant with prescribed burns. Restored wetlands and streambanks provide wildlife habitat. Five acres of wildflowers are regularly weeded and maintained to attract insect pollinators.

Earlier this year, Maryland landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. The award recipient will be recognized at the Maryland Farm Bureau Annual Convention later this year. 
 
The recipient receives a $10,000 award, and the conservation success found on their farm, ranch or forest will be featured in a professional video.
 
Last year’s inaugural recipient of the award was the Warring family’s Persistence Creek Farm of Faulkner in Charles County. 
 
“It takes immense determination and hard work to implement thoughtful practices for the betterment of land and the environment. We truly appreciate the dedication to innovation and we’re proud to be one of the supporting organizations for this award. Congratulations to all the finalists and thank you for your taking on what can feel like a thankless job,” said Samantha Campbell, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment President.
 
“These award finalists are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.
 
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Maryland award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”
 
The Leopold Conservation Award is given to farmers, ranchers and forestland owners across the U.S. in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.
 
The Maryland Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Maryland Farm Bureau Inc., Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, Sand County Foundation, Maryland Department of Agriculture, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, Delmarva Chicken Association, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Conservancy, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, ShoreRivers, and The Nature Conservancy.   
 
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LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). www.leopoldconservationaward.org
 
THE KEITH CAMPBELL FOUNDATION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment’s mission in the Chesapeake Bay Region is to improve water quality and ecological balance in the Bay and its rivers, as a healthy bay fosters a vibrant regional economy and provides exceptional recreational opportunities and a better quality of life. The Foundation provides approximately $7 million in funding through more than 150 grants annually, and has been funding in the region since 1998. www.campbellfoundation.org
 
MARYLAND FARM BUREAU®, INC. is a 501(c)(5) federation that serves as the united voice of Maryland farm families. Our organizational strength comes from the active participation of over 12,000 individual and family members who belong to the state’s 23 local county Farm Bureau organizations. Since 1915, Maryland Farm Bureau has been committed to protecting and growing agriculture and preserving rural life. Maryland Farm Bureau is a proud member of the American Farm Bureau® Federation. www.mdfarmbureau.com
 
MARYLAND ASSOCIATION OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS serves as the voice of Maryland’s 24 soil and water conservation districts on state legislative issues. It also provides a forum for training, policy-making and the exchange of information at their annual and quarterly gatherings. Its mission is to promote practical and effective soil, water, and related natural resources programs to all citizens through individual conservation districts on a voluntary bases through leadership, education, cooperation and local direction.  
 
SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION  
Sand County Foundation inspires and empowers a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. www.sandcountyfoundation.org
 
AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST  
American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through its No Farms, No Food message. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families. www.farmland.org

The Leavitts of Wilson Dowell Farms, Double J Stables, Diversify through Quality Forage

Nationwide Helps Protect this Conservation-Minded Family

When Jason Leavitt went to college, at the behest of his farming grandfather, he didn’t know at the time the lure that farming and returning to the farm would hold. Leavitt and his mother, Judy, not only continued the family’s farming legacy in Owings, Maryland, but have expanded on it. Along the way, Nationwide and agent Carrie Polk have been on their side to help this farm family that’s trying to leave the land better than they found it, all while providing quality products and (fun) services to customers.

Wilson Dowell Farms is a fourth-generation, 320-acre family farm in Calvert County. They raise pasture-raised meats and grass-fed beef, and practice rotational grazing. The Leavitts sell meat shares direct to consumers, with some cuts available for walk-in at the farm. Today, Leavitt and his wife, Kristen, manage the farm, while Judy oversees day-to-day operations and manages Double J Stables, a horse boarding operation, which is also located at Wilson Dowell Farms. 

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to work on the farm,” said Leavitt. “I enjoyed helping my grandfather cut tobacco, grind corn, feed cattle, move hay bales, fix fences, plow fields … it was more a series of fun activities than work. My grandfather always kind of tried to dissuade us and told us that we needed to go to school and learn something so that we would not have to “work” for a living. I don’t think that he meant work, per se, but maybe to avoid manual labor jobs.”

So that is exactly what he did. “It’s somewhat of a typical story, I think, when growing up we all wanted to get out and see the world,” said Leavitt. “Once I got out in the real world, it served to confirm how special the life was that we had growing up. After college, I decided to move back home, try to figure out a way to keep the farm viable, and, honestly, I was looking forward to the challenges that modern-day agricultural production presents.”

An Honor to Carry on the Family Legacy
The farm is named after Leavitt’s grandfather, Wilson Dowell, Jr. It began like most Southern Maryland farms: as a tobacco farm. While tobacco was the cash crop, Dowell always kept cattle on the farm. When the time came to transition out of tobacco, the foundation for a pasture-based livestock operation was already in place. Now the farm sells beef, pork, and goat.

Leavitt complemented his mother’s enterprise of horse stabling on their family’s land, by managing more production agriculture with a focus on beef production and high-quality forage.

“My great-grandfather bought the land for the farm where I now live in 1939,” he said. “He was a bit of a handyman and would buy fixer-uppers, get the farm in shape and then sell it for profit and move to the next farm. Eventually my great-grandmother had enough of moving and laid down the law to stay put. As the oldest son in a family of eight children, my grandfather took over the farming operation as his father aged. He raised primarily tobacco, small grains, and always had cattle. The cows were fenced in the woods and in fields that were too steep to cultivate.”

Leavitt continues, “When my grandfather passed in 1996, my mother assumed the family farming mantle. While I was still in college, she began a horse boarding business in addition to the cattle/hay operation and rented out our fields to a local farmer for his small grains operation. After college, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, and after a couple of years decided to move back to the farm. Initially, I thought that boarding horses was going to be the sole answer in creating a sustainable farm business on our property. It was soon readily apparent that while boarding horses provides a decent supplementary income, it is not feasible or sustainable in its own right as the principal operation for us. We had to diversify, so we created both Double J Stables, LLC, and Wilson Dowell Farms, LLC, in 2010.”

Top Production Priorities on Wilson Dowell Farms
Leavitt said the most important aspect of their farm and its entities is growing premium, quality forage. Not only do the grasses provide feed for the horses and, more importantly, for their grass-fed beef, but they also protect the soil.

“Currently, pastured forage is the only crop which is grown on the farm. There are approximately 160 acres of pasture on our farm, consisting of native forages, endophyte-free tall fescue, orchard grass, and warm-season annuals to supplement the summer grazing program,” Leavitt said. “Our focus is generating organic matter to increase the quality of our soil profile, mainly using rotational grazing of our cattle.”

Leavitt, also a project engineer in the Calvert County public works Capital Projects Division, put on his engineer hat to grow the farm sustainably. “I was intrigued by the successes and farming practices used by Joel Salatin on Polyface Farms in Swope, Virginia,” he said. “I immediately bought all of his books and was fascinated by the concept of rotational grazing. We currently utilize a modified version of his farming model and I believe that so far it has been successful.”

The boarding component of the Leavitts’ business is geared mainly toward trail riding. They offer full care stall/field boarding for their equine clients, have over 11 miles of trails on the property, and have an outdoor grass ring and round pen for their patrons’ use.

Rounding out the Leavitts’ top three farming priorities is the beef (and other meat) production and sales.

“This vocation provides the freedom to cultivate a source of food that I helped to create in any way that I choose,” said Leavitt. “I believe that people should have access to high-quality local food that is produced in a way that aligns with their personal beliefs. Whether that production method includes GMO/non-GMO, organic, non-organic, or grassfed/grainfed, I feel that it is our duty as farmers to provide the highest quality options to the residents of our nation, state, county, and local communities regardless of the specific production details.”

Leavitt’s twin brother, Justin, and his aunt and uncle (who all also live on the farm) are very helpful in working cows, putting up fence and whatever needs to be done. His dad mows the majority of the non-pasture grass and helps to keep the farm looking clean. “It truly is a family affair,” he adds.

No Farm is an Island: Nationwide Helps with Protection, Growth

Helping Wilson Dowell Farms to continue to be as productive as possible during times of adversity is their Nationwide farm policy and agent Carrie Polk of Carrie Polk Insurance, based in Prince Frederick, Maryland.

“Besides two other weather-related claims we had to Nationwide that were handled wonderfully for us, my mother was involved in an accident while trailering some horses. The Readers’ Digest version is that a Porsche driver passed mom’s truck and trailer while lanes were condensing, so the driver clipped mom’s truck, spun out and slammed into the guardrail. The driver was not happy with the settlement amount, a calculated loss offered by Nationwide, and decides to sue Mom, the farm, and even entities that do not exist in an attempt to recover millions of dollars in damages. In a jury trial, the Nationwide-appointed attorney wins the case, mom is found not guilty, and the driver recovers nothing. In a way, I am glad that the driver was being greedy and did not accept the settlement offer – since my mom was not at fault. I can imagine that it was a nerve-wracking experience going through depositions and anxiously awaiting trial, not to mention the stress of testimony. Both Carrie and Nationwide’s attorneys were unbelievably helpful and supportive of my mom through this process.”

“There’s a reason why you work 10-hour days and 60 hours a week in this business at times,” said Polk. “My farm families really are like family. Some of my best appointments are at the kitchen table, seeing what’s important to each family, what keeps them up at night. It’s not just about protection, either; it’s about insuring the growth. I ask, here’s where you are today; where do you want to go?”

“Nationwide is not the cheapest insurance company in the business,” said Leavitt. “However, sometimes in life, you get what you pay for. The peace of mind provided by knowing how Nationwide has taken care of us in the past and will be there for us in the future, to me, is absolutely worth every penny. Mom and I meet with Carrie at least once annually to review our coverages, discuss equipment inventory, and assess our farm operations. I don’t believe that there is a better agent (or person for that matter!) in the insurance business for us.”

“Everyone is concerned about price, but price means different things to different people,” said Polk. “I have to carry professional liability and I have a responsibility. I try to build a policy up and then take things off, so someone doesn’t inadvertently forget to add something. I try to take costs off while not compromising coverage. A farm is not a typical home coverage situation. There are extra things to consider, like cargo coverage for hauling livestock. You pay now, or you pay later — I say this all the time: Mother Nature is going to win.”

“Farming to me is an honest living, meaning that you have the ultimate responsibility of performing a myriad of necessary tasks in a timely manner to attempt to ensure a quality product,” said Leavitt. Echoing what Polk said, “Mother Nature is not always a reliable business partner! In this vocation, devotion is required, and shortcuts are not an option. I feel that you must be consistent or you will not find the path to a sustainable product. We have been with Nationwide since 2010 and plan to stay with them, one of the many tools in our toolbox to help us ensure our end quality products.”

Please visit www.wilsondowellfarms.com for how to order meat, and to learn more.

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