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FSCAP recognizes 100th farm for conservation
By CARYL VELISEK
SMITHSBURG, Md. (May 12, 2015) — Gardenhour Orchards in Washington County, recently earned the distinction of being the 100th Maryland farm to be certified for achieving a level of environmental stewardship by a coalition of agriculture and environmental groups.
At a ceremony at the farm on May 6, the Gardenhours received a sign for display marking the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program certification and several certificates of appreciation.
Started in 2010 by the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, FSCAP recognizes farmers who are good stewards of their natural resources and encourages farmers to put more conservation best management practices on the land.
The core partners for the FSCAP program are the Maryland Department of Agriculture, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Maryland Farm Bureau.
Key funding supporters are the United Soybean Board through the Maryland Soybean Board, the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, CBF and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
“We are proud to have recognized 100 farms in Maryland that have a high level of commitment to conservation on their farms,” said Lynne Hoot, MASCD executive director. “These stewards here with us today exemplify the strong stewardship ethic seen on farms across the state.”
Gardenhour Orchards is operated by Bill Gardenhour and his family.
The Gardenhours are the fourth generation in the family to run the farm. Bill Gardenhour’s great-grandfather, Boaz, started growing fruit in the Smithsburg area in the late 1890’s and his two oldest sons continued the operation until 1940 when the oldest, G. William, bought the land where the orchard is today.
The orchard is on 105 acres in the rolling hills typical of Washington County, and is within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Apples, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and other fruits and corn are grown on the farm today and there is also a pick-your-own operation.
During the presentation, Bill Gardenhour told the group about the conservation practices he uses on his farm including nutrient management planning, conservation crop rotation, proper irrigation management, and integrated pest management.
He also said that he pays close attention to the land he rents to other farmers in the area to ensure they also use proper crop rotations, no-till farming and are in compliance with nutrient management guidelines.
Dr. Terron Hillsman, the new state conservationist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service said all FSCAP-certified farmers use a suite of NRCS designed BMPs on their farms to reduce or eliminate erosion and nutrient loss.
Elmer Weibley, Washington County Soil Conservation District manager, noted that the first and the 100th FSCAP farms are both in Washington County, along with 25 others that have been certified along the way.
“The FSCAP program has provided an opportunity to showcase the commitment of Washington County farmers to conservation,” Weibley said. “These folks are stewards of the land. They create a stewardship ethic.”
Steve Ernst, who’s grain and livestock farm in Clear Spring, Md., was the first farm certified by the program, said stewardship programs have been the backbone in Maryland agriculture for generations.
“Water and soil resources that have been entrusted to our families and the provision these resources have supplied are fundamental to our current and future successes as producers of food,” Ernst said.