It’s been an exciting and successful year for the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District having achieved numerous accomplishments.
Some of those accomplishments were recognized through recognition and conservation awards at a banquet held Tuesday night.
Awards were presented to Kylie Fleming, Jake Templin, Kevin Schlipf, Aaron Beer, Brent Paxton, Brian Romine, Shawn Krull, Tom Ray, Chuck Brinkman, Linda Hathaway and Don Buhrt, for their conservation efforts in soil judging, being River Friendly Farmers, providing distinguished service, being a conservation educator, efforts in environmental enhancement, forestry and a conservation farmer of the year.
Fleming, Templin, Schlipf and Beer, Wawasee High School students, were recognized as the county’s top individual high school soil judgers. Each year the SWCD recognizes the top high school soil judging team in the county. However, this year recognition was given to individual efforts. The students were recognized for their dedication and work and their coach, Mariah Roberts, in preparation for competition.
Environmental stewardship is the focus of the Indiana River Friendly Farmer Award, bestowed upon Paxton and Romine. This award recognizes farmers who have implemented conservation practices to protect and enhance the state’s rivers, lakes and streams. There are nine criteria which rate conservation practices including erosion control and nutrient and pest management.
Paxton farms in Seward Township, as well as in Fulton County where no-till planting, cover crops, grassed waterways and filter strips are used to control erosion and sedimentation. Paxton has installed a manure management system to store and properly apply chicken litter from his free range broiler barn. He has also completed timber stand improvement on a woodlot on his home farm.
Romine farms in Harrison and Franklin townships. He utilizes no-till planting or vertical tillage on his corn and soybean acres, plants cover crops in the Shatto Ditch Watershed near Mentone as part of the SWCD Conservation Innovative Grant program. Romine and his dad, Jim, have installed grassed waterways, rock chutes and filter strips to control erosion and sedimentation.
It’s not every year a distinguished service award is presented. This award recognizes individuals who have given time and talents to the community as well as to the SWCD. Krull was recognized for his efforts. He volunteered to coordinate the county’s On Farm Network program. The program helps farmers assess economics, stewardship and reduce environmental footprints. Precision ag tools and technologies are used to conduct research on individual farms.
Krull met with area farmers to promote the program, coordinate participation efforts and conducted a wrap-up meeting to discuss results. He helped pull many stalk nitrate test samples during the summer.
Ray, principal at Washington S.T.E.M Academy, has made efforts to see every teacher in the school received training in Indiana’s Hoosier Riverwatch, Project W.E.T. and Aquatic W.I.L.D. programs. Every student in the school, from kindergarten through sixth grade, is in water twice a year armed with nets, water test kits and tools to measure and assess water quality. He, himself, is hands-on and has been known to jump in the water with the students.
Ray works closely with SWCD through its education program for youth, which includes classroom presentations and field experiences, to develop a conservation ethic and spirit of stewardship in the future generations. Ray sees the experiences of the students are shared with others. Students participate in the Northern Indiana Lakes Festival and he will be a presenter at this year’s Environmental Education Association of Indiana Annual Conference.
Brinkman, recipient of the Environmental Enhancement Award, was recognized for his energy in protecting all natural resources, whether promoting no-till and cover crops in the county or lobbying at the state house for clean water. Brinkman retired from his day job, but now works full time protecting and improving soil, water, fish and wildlife locally and at the state level.
Brinkman and his wife, Kathy, split their time between Zionsville and Irish Lake. He serves on the board of directors for the Tippecanoe Watershed Foundation and chairs the Watershed Management Committee. He also is chairman of the technical committee for Eagle Creek Watershed Alliance which promotes water quality protection practices in the watershed that provides drinking water for Indianapolis.
He is a volunteer for the Hoosier Riverwatch monitoring program and the volunteer lake monitoring program, monitoring nutrient levels and water clarity in Irish Lake. He’s also involved with Kosciusko Lakes and Streams monitoring program for Barbee Lakes. He’s also active in the Indiana Wildlife Federation.
Hathaway believes in conservation and the wise use of woodland and was recognized with the 2014 Forestry Award. Her stewardship is seen on her farm which lays along the Eel River in Jackson Township.
The 85 acres of woodland is partially river bottom soils and part well drained upland soils on the river terrace. Seventy of those acres are in Indiana’s Classified Forest program. She utilizes a professional forester to manager her woodland for optimum production, wildlife benefit and recreation. Selective harvest has been conducted the last few years and Timber Stand Improvement was completed. Work has also been done to control invasive species in the woods and riparian buffers are maintained along the Eel River and Wheeler Ditch.
The Conservation Farmer of the year was presented to Buhrt, who has a history of conservation on his Van Buren and Turkey Creek township farms. No-till planting, advanced nutrient and pest management practices are among his efforts. Hay and pasture are maintained on erodible parts of the farm. He has installed water and sediment control basins, grassed waterways and grade stabilization structures on the farm.
Buhrt has also provided leadership in the agricultural community, serving three terms on the county committee for Farm Services Agency and on the Wawasee School Ag Advisory Committee.
No annual meeting is complete without the election of supervisors and program.
Dan Ransbottom, current vice chairman, was re-appointed to the board of supervisors, and John Lash, re-elected to the board. Ransbottom has served six years on the board, with Lash completing three years. Both men are involved in conservation farming utilizing grassed waterways, sediment control basis.