September 23, 2010
York County Farmer Expands on Conservation Efforts
Leroy Walker Farm Keeps Cows Comfortable While Improving
Farm Operation and Environment
(YORK, PA) – Over forty Pennsylvania farms are benefitting from federal stimulus funds made available through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). These funds are helping farmers install conservation measures that will aid in their farms' sustainability and profitability, while improving the quality of water in local creeks and streams.
"I have been farming for 25 years and have owned and operated "Walk-Le-Holsteins" for 15. We have 355 dairy animals that we milk and show, and keeping them healthy and comfortable is rule #1," said Leroy Walker of Thomasville. "Our daily operations are improving with the help of this funding, and at the same time enabling us to be even better stewards of the land."
The Walker farm is one of 44 farms statewide being funded through a $14.2 million PENNVEST grant to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). The money is an investment in farms in the Pennsylvania portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed that will pay off not only in terms of jobs created and retained, but in healthier streams, clean drinking water at lower cost, better fishing and other enjoyment of waterways and rivers. CBF estimates the conservation practices will reduce more than 838,000 pounds of nitrogen pollution, 286,000 pounds of phosphorus pollution, and 678 tons of sediment pollution.
"The pollution reductions achieved through the PENNVEST funding are making significant improvements to our local water quality. Limited budgets and few funding opportunities can keep farmers from implementing water quality improvement practices on their farms, but the benefits are clear. We applaud PENNVEST's funding expansion to include fixes for non-point source pollution sources like agriculture and see it as a wise investment in Pennsylvania's environment," said Matt Ehrhart, PA executive director of Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Leroy, his wife Brenda, and their son Brad attend to the day to day operations of this 285 acre farm in Paradise Township, and they are no strangers to conservation. Soil conservation is of particular concern to Walker who plants approximately 80 acres of corn using a no-till process. He further protects soil by strip cropping the corn with hay. Finally, Walker uses no till to plant cover crops of Tritical (a hybrid of wheat and rye).
Proper manure management is critical to healthy barnyard conditions and to water quality. Through the PENNVEST funds, the Walkers now store excess manure in a concrete-lined storage facility until it can be appropriately applied on crop fields as fertilizer. Future manure management plans also include the installation of a concrete pad in the barnyard to allow collection of manure and to prevent soil erosion.
"The changes taking place on the Walker farm are also occurring around the state. These changes will help Pennsylvania meet its commitments for improving water quality while boosting local economies," said Brion Johnson, PENNVEST's Deputy Executive Director for Project Management.
"We feel like we've already done some very positive projects, but we're not stopping there. Through the ARRA funding we will install a sand settling system. Sand is a great bedding material for cows, but it plays havoc with the manure handling equipment. We will be installing a concrete flume and multiple storage systems that will allow the majority of the sand to settle out. The final phase of the process will be to capture water to be recycled and reused in the system," explained Walker.
"The Walker project is a model in partnerships for Pennsylvania agriculture to learn from, said Jeff Ainslie, Vice President of RedBarn Consulting, Inc. "It is rewarding to see so many stakeholders working together to improve water quality while helping position this family farm for the future," concluded Ainslie.
Additional projects on the Walker farm include establishing an extensive forested stream buffer, installing stream bank fencing, and a cattle stream crossing with assistance from the USDA and CBF. Financial assistance for the stream buffer is offered through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and technical assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and CBF.
Partners in the project include the Walkers, CBF, PENNVEST, the Department of Environmental Protection, and Red Barn Consulting, Inc. The majority of funds are from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more commonly known as federal stimulus funds.