Visitors on hay wagons rode through rolling hills of corn, cover crops, and contour strips under a blazing sun in Juniata County, to get a closer look and to learn about conservation efforts through farmers' eyes.
The collective power of partnerships was also front and center in the exchange of ideas among the 75 farmers, and local, state and federal folks who were there.
David and Marie Graybill hosted the farm stewardship event at Red Sunset Farm, a 400-acre dairy operation in Mifflintown, Juniata County. David took the opportunity to talk with Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA-10th) about the value and importance of clean water practices on the farm.
"We were honored to have Rep. Marino attend the event," said CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell. "The importance of federal programs like the Farm Bill and Chesapeake Bay Program in helping Pennsylvania farmers keep soils and nutrients on the land, instead of in the water, can't be understated."
The partnership between the Graybills to properly manage the farm; the interest shown by Congressman Marino; EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the federal offices of NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), down to the staff working at the local level, and partnerships between conservation and agricultural communities was on display that day.
Denise Coleman, state conservationist for the NRCS of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, echoed the importance of partnerships.
"In the Bay region, since the last Farm Bill in 2008, NRCS has spent about $890 million in financial assistance," Coleman said. "We don't have that happen without the Graybills and other farmers who match that. That means the farm community is spending over $400 million of their own money to put these practices in."
David Graybill was serving his second term on the state board of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, representing Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, and Huntingdon counties.
The Graybills' dairy operation has 60 registered Holsteins and 70 replacement heifers. They grow 100 acres of corn, 100 acres soybeans, 70 acres of hay and small grains, and 20 acres of sunflowers. The property straddles the Schweyer Run and Lost Creek watersheds.
Among conservation practices in place on Red Sunset Farm and viewed by guests were barnyard stormwater measures that direct rainwater away from animal exercise areas using downspouts and gutters. Manure management practices include a stacking pad with a concrete floor and three sides to control runoff.
A 700,000-gallon manure pit, receives manure from the gutters in the stanchion barn by using a transfer pump located at one end of the barn.
For pasture management, clover seeding provides key retention of soil and nutrients. Paddocks are in place to manage rotational grazing. The strategy for producing and protecting crops and soil includes contour strips, cover crops, grass waterways, diversions, no-till practices, and crop rotations. "You have to control the good things in your environment," David Graybill added. "It's about being good stewards of the land, within the economics of that stewardship."