The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Catoctin and Frederick Soil Conservation Districts hosted an event to highlight the successful conservation efforts by farmers and ranchers that have led to the improvement of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Scott Yager NCBA’s Environmental Counsel said voluntary conservation efforts have proven successful at Hedgeapple Farm, an Angus operation located in Frederick, Md.
“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,” said Yager. “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.”
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller praised agriculture and said, “The agriculture sector has been a leading contributor for improving water quality in the bay, responsible for 50 percent of the reduction in phosphorus and 75 percent of the reduction in sediment runoff since 2009. NRCS 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.”
Through voluntary conservation programs in partnership with the USDA NRCS, Dr. Scott Barao, executive director of Hedgeapple Farm, said the operation has significantly reduced its overall impact on the surrounding ecosystem, including the one-mile border with the Monocacy River, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.
“We put 254 acres that border the Monocacy River into a conservation easement,” said Barao. “We make use of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program with practices which include fencing, a watering facility, pasture and hay planting and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program planting. These practices improve the Bay and contribute to our operation’s sustainability in the long-term.”