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Two county farms honored as good stewards of their land

Ernst Farm, Rinehart Orchards receive Farm Stewardship Certification designation

July 20, 2010

CLEAR SPRING - At the farm of Carlton and Steve Ernst in Clear Spring, members of the agricultural and environmental community launched the new Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program and announced the farms that are now certified in the program.

The program recognizes farmers who are good stewards of their natural resources and are using appropriate best management practices to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

At the event spearheaded by the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, farmers Carlton and Steve Ernst and John and J.D Rinehart were recognized as the first two farms in Maryland to become certified under the new program.

Don Spickler, Washington County soil district supervisor, said the purpose of the program is to recognize farmers who are using best management practices on their farm to eliminate any significant erosion or nutrient loss and who have been scrutinized to the same standard applied by a Maryland Department of Agriculture's regulatory inspection of their nutrient management plan to determine that they are in compliance with the Water Quality Improvement Act.

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Speaking at the presentation were project sponsors Jon Hall, State Conservationist with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service; Valerie Connelly, director of Governmental Relations with Maryland Farm Bureau; Kim Coble, Maryland executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Buddy Hance, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture; and Spickler, representing the local Washington County soil conservation district.

The program partners then presented signs to the first two farms to receive certification to be displayed at their farm entrances.

The first recipient was Ernst Grain and Livestock. Carlton Ernst and his son, Steve, have a grain, hog and sheep farm in Clear Spring with approximately 500 acres of cropland. Steve Ernst spoke about the best management practices that have been incorporated on the Ernst farm to manage nutrients and keep sediment loss to a minimum. These include an animal waste storage structure, filter strips, cover crops, nutrient management, conservation crop rotation, residue management no-till, prescribed grazing and riparian forest buffers. Steve Ernst said the farm has participated in the Maryland Agricultural Cost-share Program and the federal Conservation Stewardship Program. Steve is using crimson clover as a cover crop, which as a legume fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere for the next crop.

Next, was Rinehart Orchard. John Rinehart and his son, J. D. Rinehart, farm 200 acres of peaches and 300 acres of apples in their orchards in Smithsburg. Among the best management practices carried out on the Rinehart farms are an agrichemical handling facility, pest management, nutrient management and conservation crop rotation.

The Rineharts have participated in the program and the federal Environmental Quality Incentive Program.

More information on their operation can be found at remsberg.com/soundbooks/rine hart_web/.

More information on the progam certification process can be obtained at http://www.mascd.net or by calling Lynne Hoot at 410-956-5771.

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