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New York Dairy Wins 2013 Agricultural Environmental Management Award

August 7, 2013
 
 

Family has farmed the land for 100 years, and today its thriving dairy farm uses cutting-edge technology to increase profits and protect the environment.

Source: New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets news release

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine today announced that Sheland Farms of Ellisburg, N.Y., is the recipient of the 2013 New York State Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Award.

The Shelmidine family, which operates the farm, along with the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District, were honored by the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Empire State Potato Growers and American Agriculturist Magazine during the Agricultural Leadership Luncheon at Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls.

"I congratulate the Shelmidine family on this tremendous achievement," said Commissioner Aubertine. "For 100 years, the Shelmidine’s have been farming this land in Jefferson County. From generation to generation, their family has grown and their farm has persevered. Today, it is a thriving dairy farm using cutting edge technology to increase profits and protect the environment."

Sheland Farms milks approximately 700 cows and utilizes 2,100 acres of land to grow all the crops needed to feed the dairy cows and young stock on the farm. They use reduced soil plowing practices and cover crops to enhance the health of the soil and increase the amount of organic carbon that can be sequestered and utilized by growing crops. These proven conservation systems also reduce the loss of nutrients and topsoil to the nearby waters of Sandy Creek, an important tributary to Lake Ontario.

Sheland Farms made the necessary investments in the farm to not only improve efficiencies and minimize impacts to the local watershed but taken an extra step by covering their manure storage, successfully capturing and filtering methane emissions. Sheland Farms are also digesting cow manure to produce a clean, renewable source of electricity for the operation of the farm and utility grid. These advanced conservation systems put into practice on the farm protect the watershed and reduce climate changing emissions, in effect improving the global environment.

With the help of state and federal funding from sources like NYS’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), Sheland Farms has invested in conservation practice systems to protect water quality by eliminating runoff from barnyard, feed storage, and milkhouse areas. Diverting and collecting rainwater or melting snow away from these areas minimizes pollution concerns from manure and allows for nutrient recycling when manure is properly applied to fields as natural fertilizers to crops. Conservation practices like these are a win-win scenario for both the farm’s economic bottom line and the environment.

The Shelmidine family is very active in its community, serving on the local Cornell Cooperative Extension Board, Jefferson County Agricultural Development Board, Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board, and in town government. In addition, the Shelmidine family participates in the NYS and Jefferson County Farm Bureaus, 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association. The Shelmidines also volunteer in both school and church organizations and have opened their farm for a number of community and educational tours. Finally, to further support their commitment to the environment beyond Jefferson County, Doug Shelmidine has served on the nationwide USDA Agricultural Air Quality Taskforce for 10 years.

The Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District typifies outstanding service to the farming community of the county and beyond. The District offers a wide variety of programs to farmers, including comprehensive nutrient management planning assistance, technical assistance and conservation equipment rental. Members of the District provide technical assistance to all farmers regardless of whether they are involved with a state or federal grant program. Christine Watkins, Executive Director and Certified Nutrient Management Planner, also provides training and education assistance to other Districts at numerous training events across the state helping to ensure that all Districts have the capacity to serve the agricultural community statewide.

Since 1993, the EPF (originally known as the Environmental Trust Fund) has been funding programs that help farmers to apply conservation on their lands, thereby protecting drinking water supplies and water resources across the state. Since the EPF was signed into law 20 years ago on Aug. 4, 1993, over $120 million has been invested in the State’s Agricultural Environmental Management Initiative helping farms like the Shelmidines preserve and protect New York’s vital natural resources. When the value of clean water for tourism, boating and fishing is factored in with avoided water treatment costs, collectively conservation projects supported through the EPF provide a huge economic benefit as well as a cleaner environment.

New York’s AEM program is a model for the entire nation. Its incentive-based approach protects natural resources and meets economic needs in the field of agriculture.

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