State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced that Tre-G Farms of Manlius, NY is the recipient of the 2014 New York State Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Award. The Smith family, which operates the farm, along with the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District, were honored today by the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Empire State Potato Growers and American Agriculturalist Magazine during an event at Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls.
“Sound soil and water conservation practices are important facets of any farm operation, including my own,” said Commissioner Ball. “My sincere congratulations go to the Smith Family and the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District for being honored in 2014. Every year, more and more farmers are tapping into the knowledge and expertise of their local district, with winning results from both an economic and environmental standpoint.”
Conservation Districts like the one in Onondaga County utilize the state’s AEM framework to help farmers meet environmental challenges head on. Administered through the County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, AEM helps farms make common sense, cost-effective and science-based decisions to help meet business objectives while protecting and conserving the State’s natural resources. Currently, more than 13,000 farms participate in AEM.
Tre-G Farms, owned by the Smith Family, is a fourth generation family farm with the fifth generation showing interest in taking over. The original homestead was purchased by Jim Smith’s great grandfather in 1919. This 160 cow dairy farm produces milk, hay, and corn on more than 650 acres of land. The farm has diversified to also grow asparagus as well as pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries and peas utilizing a direct marketing approach that invites the public to the farm.
Jim and Susan Smith are very active in the community, hosting the local Soil and Water District’s 1st Annual District Conservation Day on the Farm in 2011. They plan to host it again this year. The Smiths have a long term commitment to conservation and the protection of water quality. The Smiths developed and follow an AEM comprehensive nutrient management plan which helps the farm make wise use of livestock manure as a main nutrient source for growing forages and crops, and along with conservation tillage that lessons soil disturbance and promotes soil health, they have been working to reduce and prevent soil erosion and runoff since the 1970s. These practices also require less fuel and capture organic carbon in the soil. After developing the AEM plan, the farm installed a milkhouse wastewater treatment system, a barnyard runoff management system and a rotational grazing system that fully excludes livestock from watercourses, in the process protecting the state’s valuable water resources. The farm installed a water and sediment control basin and cover crops are planted to prevent soil erosion and protect the West Branch of Limestone Creek, a tributary for Oneida Lake. The farm is also planning to install solar panels to reduce electricity needs by 30%.
The Smith family has also utilized its local Soil and Water Conservation District for technical assistance and oversight of conservation practice system construction on the farm.
In his nomination of the Smith family, Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District Executive Director Mark Burger said, “When we started the AEM plan for this farm, we could not have predicted the level of involvement that Jim and Sue would have with implementing all the conservation Best Management Practices or the support they have given back to the District. Jim has made himself available to promote the District and AEM, which is a testament to the value he sees in the District’s services, and in the appreciation and investment he shows for the District’s recommendations. We are proud to call this family farm a friend of the District.”
New York’s AEM Framework is a model for the nation. Its incentive-based approach protects natural resources and meets economic needs throughout the state’s agricultural community.