Two local farm families recognized for 'hard work and commitment'

Robert and Michael Martz, and Lewis' Orchards and Farms LLC honored during ceremony in Hagerstown

August 27, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN |
  • Michael Martz, left, and his father, Robert Martz, were recognized Tuesday for their work as sustaining conservation farmers, and Shirley Lewis received a plaque for outstanding conservation farmer.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

Two local farm families were recognized Tuesday morning for their agricultural conservation work by the Washington County Soil Conservation District and the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

During a ceremony at Homewood Suites by Hilton in Hagerstown, Robert Martz and his son, Michael, won the Sustaining Conservation Award for 2013 for their  conservation efforts over time.

And the family-owned farm Lewis’ Orchards and Farms LLC in Cavetown won the Outstanding Conservation Farmer Award for its efforts over the past year.

Elmer Weibley, manager for the conservation district, said that the awards are a recognition for the farmers’ “hard work and commitment.”

“These practices that they do are not required, for the most part,” he said. “This is a voluntary, incentive-driven type program, so it shows their commitment to being stewards of the land.”


The Martz family operates four farms throughout the county and parts of various other farms in the area, Robert Martz said.

Since 2000, the family has installed manure-storage facilities, grass waterways, cattle-stream crossings, and watering troughs for animals, while using nutrient-management and conservation planning, Weibley said.

Robert Martz said that he was happy about the award, but noted that the effects of the conservation efforts are more important. He said that keeping manure from going into Beaver Creek was a priority.

“In 1951 we had 21 dairy cows, and that didn’t make much manure getting into the creek, which ultimately gets into the (Chesapeake) bay,” he said. “Now we have 170 cows, which would be an awful lot of pollutants going into the bay.”

Martz, 68, said a concrete wall between one of the farms and Beaver Creek was also installed. He said the measures have not only limited pollution by keeping manure from getting into the creek, but also were cost-effective.

“We’re not only keeping the creek clean, we’re keeping the soil on our farms,” he said. “In Washington County, we have an awful lot of rocks and some dirt, and the dirt that we have we need to keep in the fields.”

The Lewis family has installed three grass waterways to deal with erosion in their  fields, and created a buffer between Beaver Creek and the agricultural operation on the farm, Weibley said.

Shirley Lewis, owner of Lewis’ Orchards and Farm LLC brought her three children to accept the award.

The conservation efforts began three or four years ago to “save the farmland,” because it was washing away, Lewis said. She described the award as “quite an honor.”

“It makes us feel important to be able to preserve and take care of the land that God has given us to farm,” she said.

Lewis, 74, said that the work done on the farm would not have been cost-effective were it not for the help of the conservation district.

“With their help, it enables us to be able to do more to control the sediment runoff and keep the dirt in the fields, where it should be,” she said.

The commissioners also presented a certificate of recognition to each of the award winners.

A board of supervisors for the conservation district vote on the award winners, Weibley said.

He said the awards can highlight the work that farmers are doing and encourage others to do the same thing.

“We think it’s important to recognize those farmers that step up and do above and beyond,” he said. “I think it’s important for them to know that it is recognized and appreciated not just by their own families, but in the community.”

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