Conservation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has been on the national radar for years. Now the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Catoctin and Frederick Soil Conservation Districts are showing off successful conservation efforts by local farmers and ranchers. A recent event at Hedgeapple Farm, a Maryland Angus operation, highlighted the volunteer efforts that have lead to improvement of the Bay’s watershed.
At the event, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller praised the agriculture industry for playing a large part in improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. “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,” said Weller.
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.”
NCBA’s Environmental Counsel Scott Yager says Hedgeapple Farms has developed a business model that is “economically and environmentally sustainable, optimizing the use of on-farm resources such as pasture, hay, and water.”