REYNOLDSBURG — The Ohio Department of Agriculture on Thursday recognized five families representing each region of the state as winners of the 2016 Conservation Farm Family Awards at the Farm Science Review in London — including William and Shauna Wilkins of Miami County. This was the 33rd year of the awards program.
“Farmers were the first conservationists, and to this day the conservation efforts they employ will allow the land to be the most productive it can be to provide food, fiber and fuel for generations to come,” said Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels. “I am proud of each of these families for being good neighbors, handling the land with care, and helping to responsibly keep food and agriculture a top ranking industry in Ohio.”
The other four families honored were: Robert Lill of Marion County; Justin and Lowell Wolff of Medina County; Edward and Karen Bay of Guernsey County; and Tim and Sandy Shoemaker and Howard Grabill of Highland County.
“Each of the five farming families we recognized operates in a different geographic area of Ohio, with differing acreages, soils, and topography,” said Kirk Hines, chief of the department’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation. “They each have a unique mixture of crops and livestock. Each farm has its own management challenges and goals. They share a common commitment to conserve natural resources; the soil, water, woodlands, and wildlife on the land they farm. Every farm and family is unique but conservation is the foundation of their livelihoods.”
The Wilkinses have more than 130 acres in Miami County on the south side of Troy. Major crops include corn, soybeans, cereal rye, wheat and hay.
The couple have been cooperators with the local Soil and Water Conservation District for more than 23 years. The Wilkins farm around 110 tillable acres using 100 percent no-till rotation of beans and corn. In addition to no till, they use slow release fertilizer, regularly test soil and have installed a grass driveway to access all crop fields on the farm and limit traffic on the cropland.
The Wilkinses use conservation practices visible from the road, including buffer strips, tree planting and pollinator planting. They have worked with Ohio AgrAbility, a state organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for farmers and other agricultural workers with disabilities.
In 2014, the Wilkinses were awarded the Spirit of Easter Seals Tristate award. In 2015 they were named the Miami County Soil and Water Conservation District Cooperator of the year. When asked about their conservation philosophy, William said, “We, as farmers, are stewards of the land. We do the best we can to build the soil and wildlife habitat using proven conservation methods.”
Since 1984, the Conservation Farm Family Awards program has recognized 171 Ohio farm families for their exemplary efforts conserving soil, water, woodland, wildlife and other natural resources on the land they farm. Conservation farm families also host a variety of educational programs, opening their farms to schools, scout groups, farm organizations and others.
In addition to receiving $400 each from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the families were also featured in the September issue of Ohio Farmer magazine and received plaques from ADS Hancor Inc. Ohio Farmer magazine has sponsored the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards since the program’s inception. Nominations are sought annually between January and May, and Ohio farming families are encouraged to apply. For more information or to apply individuals can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).