By BRETT R. WHITLING
Clarion Conservation District gave three awards to those continually improving Clarion County’s agriculture, woodlands and dirt and gravel township roads.
The 2017 Agriculture Conservation Award at the Clarion Conservation District’s annual Conservation Banquet held April 26 at the Trinity Point Church of God.
Gruber Farms of Shippenville received the Agriculture Conservation Award, Beaver Township received the Conservation Road Maintenance Award and Hillwood Farm in Lucinda received the Woodland Conservation Award.
Gruber Farms is an eight-generation family owned and operated farm located just along state Route 322 in Shippenville.
Their operation includes pasture-raised meats, rotational grazing and a local focus on direct to consumer sales.
All chickens, pigs and turkeys are raised with no hormones, antibiotics or steroids.
Last year the farm raised 40 to 70 feeder pigs, also eight sows and one boar.
The Grubers have 300 laying hens and over 2,000 broilers and turkeys.
Their conservation practices include in-pasture watering systems and pasture rotational grazing using contour lines which have barely changed over the years.
The “farm to table” direct sale to consumer business includes sales at Bar Marco, the Beef Barn and more. They also provide meat to local restaurants such as Karma Coffee in Franklin and Sweet Basil in Shippenville.
The family gets all its feed from J&J Feeds & Needs in Shippenville.
While the family was once heavy in providing dairy, they got out of it in 1981 after a barn fire.
The Grubers are looking into grazing beef as another option and are in the process of building a new storefront on their farm.
“Know your farmer to know your food; your food does not come from Walmart, your food comes from a farm somewhere,” John Gruber said.
Last year Beaver Township worked with the Dirt and Gravel Road program administered by the conservation district by doing exceptional work by completing a project on Eagle Furnace Road.
The road had been severely eroded ditches and a dusty worn road surface. All road water was handles by one cross pipe which was causing erosion and sending sediment-laden runoff to a tributary of Canoe Creek.
The project consisted of adding four new cross pipes with stabilized rock aprons at the outfalls.
The addition of the new cross pipes has eliminated erosion in the ditch and successfully conveyed storm water under the road without causing erosion on the down slope side of the road.
Beaver Township’s maintenance supervisor Brad Switzer and a team of approximately a dozen workers were commended for the exceptional job well done on the pipes.
The crew worked without the supervision from Devin Lineman, erosion & sediment/ dirt & gravel road technician for a period of time and created what Lineman called “textbook examples” of what the work should look like.
Hillwood Farm, run by George and Jane Schmader in Lucinda were recognized for hard work on their 170-acre property for forestry stewardship and promotion to woodland conservation management.
The award is granted not to someone who made changes over the past year, but has maintained and improved the land for woodland conservation over a number of years.
The family started with a plan for their land on how to improve it and have consistently worked on making it a better home for all wildlife.
In 2008, Hillwood Farm won Pennsylvania Tree Farm of the Year.
The Schamders’ have not only improved opportunity for wildlife on their land but for the growth of healthy trees as well.
George spent time cutting down “junk trees” in order to give room a light for new trees to grow evenly and strong.
Junk trees are trees which grow with limited light and nutrients due to the growth around them. They are often not as strong and create “low-use wood” in forests.
As a hobby, George has dedicated an area of his land near his house to sugar bush. He has done this by thinning out the maple and giving other trees more opportunity to produce maple.
Last year, George produced six gallons of maple syrup on his land.
The Schamders’ are also some of the founding members of Woodland Owners of Clarion-Allegheny Valley (WOCAV).
WOCAV’s mission is to promote forest stewardship through educational programs, demonstrations and the sharing of their collective experiences with other members of the association.
WOCAV members are spread throughout Western Pennsylvania and also have members in Washington D.C., Ohio, Massachusetts and even one in Hawaii.