POMEROY — “We need to leave this land in as good or better condition than we acquired it.”
That philosophy, espoused by long-time farmer and retired Ohio State University Cooperative Extension Service Agent John Rice of Reedsville who was recognized Thursday night at the 73rd annual meeting and banquet of the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District, held at Meigs High School.
Rice was named the 2016 Meigs SWCD Outstanding Cooperator of the Year, which was followed by his also being recognized as the district’s second-ever Lifetime Cooperator.
In introducing Rice, Jim Freeman, Meigs SWCD wildlife specialist said, “To be considered for (lifetime cooperator), a person must have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to conservation as exhibited by long-time cooperation, practice, service or education.
“This makes for a short list of qualified, prospective honorees.”
“However, the person we are recognizing tonight embodies all four of those qualifications, and has dedicated his entire working career, and then some, to agriculture and conservation, education and service to his community, and put those principles to work on his own farm.”
Rice’s OSU Extension Service career spanned several decades including nearly 30 years as the Meigs County Agent.
He farmed the family property, Oakmore Farm, near Reedsville with his late wife, Anne, and his late brother, Harley. During that time the farm was the site of several field days highlighting soil conservation and production methods, and always incorporating the philosophy of protecting the land, Freeman said.
In addition the farm was also used for soils training, and the conservation techniques learned there served as a model for what was then the Soil Conservation Service (now Natural Resources Conservation Service), and the Extension Service.
In his introduction, Freeman said, “Three goals always guided their thinking: protect the land, make the land productive, and make a profit.
“Protecting the land always came before making a profit.”
Rice was also the 1989 Cooperator of the Year, received the Ohio State University Cooperative Extension Agents Association Distinguished Service Award in 1988, and was the 1990 Meigs SWCD Goodyear Farmer of the Year.
He served on countless boards throughout the county and also served on the Meigs SWCD Board of Supervisors from 1993 to 2001.
Using Rice’s own words from 1988, Freeman said, “There are about five inches of topsoil that feeds the world. Basically, topsoil that is lost cannot be replaced.”
In announcing Rice as the 2016 Cooperator of the Year, Carrie Crislip, district conservationist for the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, said Rice manages a beef cattle operation consisting of approximately 82.5 acres of pasture, 10.5 acres of permanent hay, and 125 acres of woodland.
She then outlined a list of recent conservation practices completed on the farm through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program including two automatic watering facilities, pipeline, and a heavy-use area feed pad which will help with planned rotational grazing.
Crislip also highlighted hay storage barns constructed over the years to help protect hay quality, and wildlife practices including exclusion fencing and bird boxes.
She and Joe Bolin, president of the Meigs SWCD Board of Supervisors, presented Rice with a sign and plaque representing Cooperator the Year and Lifetime Cooperator, respectively.
Crislip also gave a brief report on NRCS activities in the county, stating that landowners received nearly $85,000 this past year to help them put conservation practices on their property.
Meigs SWCD Education Coordinator Jenny Ridenour gave an informational report on the district’s Meigs County – Pick It Up! Program and the upcoming Meigs County Clean Up Day, slated for May 20, 2017.
Since the Pick It Up! Program’s inception in 2014 workers have cleaned up 1,094 miles of county and township roads, 5,476 bags of litter, and 1,482 tires in addition to cleaning up dozens of illegal roadside dump sites. The Pick It Up! Program is a partnership between the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs-Vinton Solid Waste District, Meigs County Commissioners and the Meigs SWCD.
Clean Up Days were established in 2013 and since then have collected 8,812 tires, 113 tons of solid waste, 1,319 pounds of electronics, and 41 tons of scrap metal. Partners for Clean Up Days include the Meigs County Commissioners, Meigs County Health Department, GJMV Solid Waste District, and the Meigs SWCD.
Freeman also gave a presentation on the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative which is a broad consortium of local, state, and federal agencies, private industry, and individuals concerned about saving habitat to protect pollinating insects.
In Ohio, the emphasis is on the Monarch butterfly, which is dependent on milkweed for propagation. The Meigs SWCD is participating in a statewide Milkweed Seed Pod Collection project and encourages people to bring milkweed seed pods to the Meigs SWCD office at 113 East Memorial Drive, Suite D, Pomeroy, through the remainder of October.
David Bright, representing the Athens-Meigs Farm Bureau, gave a brief report on that agency’s activities in the two counties.
Jarrod Hittle, program specialist for the Ohio Department of Agriculture – Division of Soil and Water Conservation, announced that Meigs SWCD Board of Supervisors member Bill Baer was re-elected to another three-year term on the board commencing Jan. 1, 2017.
Ridenour also announced winners of the hay show and soil judging competitions, which will be covered in a future article.
The Meigs SWCD, established in 1943 is a legal subdivision of state government that provides natural resource management assistance to county landowners and other units of local government. The district is funded by the Meigs County Board of Commissioners, and county funds are supplemented by funding from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The district is governed by a five-member board of supervisors, all county residents. Board members serve staggered three-year terms. Current supervisors also include: Bill Baer, Racine; Joe Bolin, Rutland; Tonja Hunter, Racine; Keith Bentz, Racine, and Tony Carnahan, Syracuse.