This is one in a series of articles about farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed who have implemented Best Management Practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and efficiency on their farms. As a result of these success stories, we're halfway to achieving the nutrient reductions needed to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its waters. View the rest of the series here.
Nestled along Springfield Road in a small valley amid the rural rolling hills of Bradford County farm country, you'll find the Kuhn Family Farm.
Randy and Tina Kuhn own and operate this 40-acre niche farm with the premise of working with the land instead of manipulating it for their own profit.
You can stop by the Kuhn farm three days a week and shop in their small barn-turned-farm store. One hundred percent Grass-fed Red Angus and Charlais Beefalo beef, pastured Tamworth and Duroc-Hamp pork, pastured poultry and eggs, holiday turkeys, cherries and raspberries, as well as sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, and pears, all raised on their 40 acres, are available when in season.
Strict rules of conduct to ensure the animal's health and well-being guide how the Kuhn's raise their animals. This makes for happier animals and better products for their customers.
In keeping with the theme of working with nature, the Kuhns have taken measures to improve water quality on the farm, and to limit excess sediment pollution. The farm was not in good shape seven years ago when they started farming the land.
"This farm was literally a cesspool when we moved here!" exclaimed Randy. "We tested the water in the pond and it wasn't fit to use for anything. Do NOT let your cattle drink out of it, they said." Randy was referring to the small pond on the downhill side of the farm. Unfortunately their pond was the collecting point for all of the farmland in the small valley.
The Kuhns enrolled seven acres of their farm into USDA's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The areas next to the pond and stream were planted with hardwood trees and shrubs to form a forested riparian buffer. This buffer helps filter nutrients and sediment that could make it to the stream and pond at times of heavy rainfall and runoff. It also enhances the habitat for wildlife.
Through CREP and funds provided by the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, the Kuhn's also installed a new well and livestock watering system away from the stream and pond. Keeping the livestock away from the pond and stream will further improve water quality.
Today, the pond is visibly healthier and "we even have deer coming up through the buffer to drink from the pond and they don't even keel over after they drink," Randy quips. It is also home for stocked fish that thrive in the healthy environment.
--Steve Smith and Kelly Donaldson