The 2012 drought serves as a reminder as to why soil and water conservation districts were formed more than 70 years ago. Jim Croskey Jr., chairman of the Holmes Soil and Water Conservation Board of Supervisors told those attending the district's annual meeting that years of drought and poor farming practices led to the Dust Bowls of the 1930s.
"Soil from the prairies blew all the way to Washington, D.C. to convince Congress that conservation needed to become a priority for our nation, and the Soil Conservation Service and soil and water conservation districts were formed," Croskey said. "Conservation has changed the face of our land, improved our water quality and kept our soils productive, even in times of drought. Our district continues to promote conservation through partnerships within the county, state and U.S."
Croskey reminded the audience that Hugh Hammond Bennett, the first chief of the Soil Conservation Service -- now the Natural Resources Conservation Service -- is quoted as saying, "Take care of the land, and the land will take care of you."
Velvet View Farm, of Big Prairie, owned and operated by Aaron and David Schlauch and their families, was selected as the recipient of the 2012 Conservation Farm Award.
"It is great to work with quality people," said Merle Swartzentruber. "(The) Schlauchs don't have a lot of flat land on their farm, but they do an excellent job of managing their farm."
Swartzentruber has worked with Schlauchs on many of their projects in his job as a technician with the Holmes SWCD.
Over that past several years, the Schlauchs have installed heavy use pads, a concrete pad for their silage bags, with curbs to prevent runoff, three covered manure storage facilities, access lanes and a feedlot settling basin. They have also installed gutters and downspouts on their buildings, installed a 2,500-gallon tank to handle milkhouse waste, manage their woodlot, use cover crops to prevent erosion and have completed a manure nutrient management plan.,
Esther Silvius received the district's Friend of Conservation Award. Silvius has been a longtime supporter of farming and conservation and has written countless articles over the years for several area newspapers and periodicals. Silvius was recognized for her support of the district with articles about the activities in county. She was unable to attend the banquet and her award was accepted on her behalf by her son, Dan.
One of the district's annual highlights is the Tom Graham Fifth-Grade Conservation Tour, now in its 47th year. During the banquet, Jason Schuch, a Holmes SWCD supervisor, asked how many people in attendance had taken part in the tour as fifth-graders. More than half of the audience raised their hands, indicating they had participated.
This year, the tour was hosted by Tom and Sarah Miller. The Millers hosted more than 400 fifth-graders from West Holmes, East Holmes and Holmesville. As part of the tour, the students are asked to submit an essay about the tour. The top three winners in the essay contest were recognized at the banquet. First place went to Eleah Crayton, daughter of Will and Heather Crayton. Second place went to Macin Hager, son of Chris and Susan Hager, and third place went to Caleb Martin, son of Steve and Lori Martin.
Elected to the Board of Supervisors were Tim Brumme and Robert Hershberger. Brumme and his wife, Angela, along with Tim's parents, run Big Little Farms near Killbuck. They farm 700 acres in Holmes and Coshocton counties. Their main crop is mixed hay for the horse market. They also raise oats, soybeans and beef cattle. Conservation practices on their farm include no-till, contour strips, crop rotation and grassed waterways. Tim is a member of the Holmes County Farm Bureau and is a member of Nashville Church of Christ. Tim and Angela have two young daughters.
Hershberger, of Monroe Township, raises Holstein heifers, corn, soybeans and hay, in rotation. Conservation practices include contour strips, using minimum or no-till. He works part time at Paint Valley Equipment. He is an active member of Millersburg Mennonite Church and a member of the Holmes County Farm Bureau. Bob and his wife, Beth, have a daughter, who graduated from college last year.