Tiffany Ricketts was recognized for receiving the Scholarship Award during the 68th annual Soil and Water Conservation District meeting. Posing next to her is Supervisor Dick Rice. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
Tiffany Ricketts was recognized for receiving the Scholarship Award during the 68th annual Soil and Water Conservation District meeting. Posing next to her is Supervisor Dick Rice. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – The Van Wert Soil and Water Conservation District held their 68th annual meeting Tuesday evening at Vantage Career Center. Several presentations were given, including one from Aaron Heilers of Blanchard River Demonstrations Farms Network who spoke on reducing nutrient loss in water runoff.

Heilers presented the crowd of farmers, conservationist, and others with several ways the demonstration farms have been managing water quality and nutrients such as phosphorus.

“The overall purpose of these farms is to demonstrate to not only farmers, but the non-farm public and policy makers, what kind of innovative conservation technologies are out there,” said Heilers. “It also looks at the environmental and economic benefits of those practices.”

The farms test several different practices that farmers can come in and see and find the right fit for their farm. Some of the practices presented included two layer ditching which can slow down water flow giving nutrients time to settle, improving soil health, taking soil and water samples to ensure nutrient levels are where they should be, and even nutrient removal.

The Environmental Protection Agency has tasked farmers with reducing phosphorus and nutrient run off by 40 percent, which is why demonstration farms like Heilers’ are looking at new and innovative ways to help farmers do that.

Heilers did note, however, that farmers are losing one pound of phosphorus per acre, which he said is around 34 cents worth of product.

“We’re asking farmers to do all of these practices to save about 34 cents worth of fertilizer,” said Heilers. “It’s not to say we don’t have things we can do better on our farms, or that we shouldn’t do better, but it’s tough from an economic stand point to save that last half a pound of fertilizer.”

Heilers also noted that rain fall events have increased as well in the past 20 years.

“Can we do enough to prevent that last half a pound of runoff?” said Heilers. “Hopefully we can make our farms more resilient to these types of weather patterns, but that is ultimately what we are up against.”

Heilers concluded with a question and answer session.

Other presenters for the night were Jeremy Gerding and Tammy Campbell who gave presentations on District programs and education efforts.

Craig Pohlman was recognized for 10 years of service on the SWCD Board, and this year’s Conservation Award went to Buckeye Acres. The award is given to honor individuals for their conservation achievements. Kris Young accepted the award.

Tiffany Ricketts was recognized for receiving the Scholarship Award.

An election was held prior to the diner that was provided by Elegant Beginnings. David Kemler was elected to serve a three year term commencing Jan. 1, 2018 on the SWCD Board of Supervisors.

As the annual event came to an end, there was a drawing for door prizes. Baughman Tile, Burtch Seed, Farm Credit, Heritage Farm, Kenn Feld Group, Mercer Landmark-Glenmore and Ohio City, Van Wert Auto, Pond Seed, and Williamson Insurance provided the drawing items.