Beef & Dairy
Farm praised for conservation work
By CARYL VELISEK
FREDERICK, Md. (Dec. 27, 2016) — Successful conservation practices by farmers and ranchers that have led to the improvement of the Chesapeake Bay watershed were highlighted at Hedgeapple Farm in Frederick County this month.
Hedgeapple Farm is an Angus cattle operation near Buckeystown and is a part of the Jorgensen Foundation. The Dec. 1 event was hosted by The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Catoctin and Frederick soil conservation districts.
Dennis Remsburg, district manager for the Catoctin and Frederick Soil Conservation District, first introduced the program for the day and the first speaker was Scott Yager of NCBA’s Environmental Council, who said Hedgeapple Farm’s voluntary efforts have proven successful in helping to improve the Chesapeake Watershed.
“We know the one-size fits all approach to conservation doesn’t work and when given the incentive and flexibility to find the conservation practices that work for their operation, farmers and ranchers will always do what’s best to steward the land,” Yager said. “For Hedgeapple Farm, they have developed a business model that is economically and environmentally sustainable, optimizing the use of on-farm resources such as pasture, hay and water.”
Jason Weller, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service chief, also praised the ag industry for playing a large part in improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, saying, the agriculture sector has been a leading contributor for improving water quality in the Bay, and responsible for 50 percent of the reduction in phosphorus and 75 percent of the reduction of sediment runoff since 2009.
“NCRS will continue to work side-by-side with farmers and ranchers in Maryland and across the Chesapeake Bay, who are voluntarily making conservation improvements to their land. Voluntary conservation works and is a key to improving outcomes for the bay,” he said.
Scott Barao, executive director of Hedgeapple Farm, who has been with the operation for more than 15 years, said through voluntary conservation programs in partnership with the USDA-NRCS, their operation has significantly reduced its overall impact on the surrounding ecosystem, including the 1-mile border they share with the Monacacy River and ultimately the Bay. Hedgeapple has put 254 acres that border the river into conservation easement.
“We make use of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program which include fencing, a watering facility, pasture and hay planting, and also the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program planting. … These practices improve the Bay and contribute to our operation’s sustainability in the long term,” Barao said.
History has shown, according to Yager, that, given the chance, the government will always take a heavy-handed approach to regulation. Unless we continue to share these success stories, which we have in abundance, the government will keep pushing for more regulation. Barao said they are not unique in their efforts.
They use a team approach to make things work, according to Barao who added that they do little more than the other farms in this area and adapt to a wide range of resources to help them be more sustainable.
“We use the farm as a training ground to see what works best. As part of our operation we collect copious amounts of information to be more profitable and more sustainable, and we have seen tremendous growth as a result of those practices,” he said.
Hedgeapple Farm is the centerpiece of the Jorgensen Family Foundartion, created in 1997 as an educational nonprofit committed to initiatives that benefit beef cattle farmers and farm families throughout the region.
The farm market sells beef raised on the farm and every dollar spent there goes into the foundation to help support the farm model and to further the outreach mission of the foundation.