State Officials Tour Wyoming County Farms that are Helping to Protect Clean Water

October 03, 2018 - 5:22 pm

Wilkes-Barre, PA – Two Wyoming County farms are showing how agriculture and conservation can work hand-in-hand to prevent pollution from flowing into the Susquehanna River. On a tour of the farms today, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell saw the benefits of one farm switching to an all-organic operation and the other utilizing stream-bank fencing to protect wetlands.

The Henningstead Holstein Farm in Mehoopany switched to an organic operation in 2011, beginning with organically growing the grain used by the farm to feed the animals. The farm, which houses 50 cows and 30 younger stock, relies mainly on compost for fertilizer. The farm is also a “no-till” operation that preserves the soil and limits its chances of becoming part of runoff pollution. Last year, the Henningstead Holstein Farm built a roofed manure storage facility using a grant from DEP and private donations.

“DEP partners with local farmers to promote best-management practices that will ultimately benefit the farm”, said Secretary McDonnell. “This type of operation not only protects and preserves the soil on the farm, it also protects local waterways that feed into the Susquehanna River.”

Over the years the farmers have reduced runoff from the farm in several different ways:

In the 1960s, the owners began installing drain tile and diversion ditches in crop fields to control runoff.

In the 1980s, they began installing contour strips and practicing no-till planting.

In 2000, with the help of the DEP Chesapeake Bay program, they installed a concrete barnyard, manure storage, and milk house waste system.

Secretary McDonnell also toured a stream bank fencing project on the nearby Faux Family farm. The fencing protects a large wetland on the property that has a stream running through it. The fencing helps prevent polluted runoff which would contain nitrogen and phosphates from animal manure from entering the water. 

“Stream bank fencing is an important tool that farmers can use to protect water resources on their properties,” said Secretary McDonnell. “When local waterways are preserved, the river and ultimately the Bay are protected from runoff.”

Since 1995, the DEP Stream Bank Fencing program has protected 613.75 acres from the impacts of 6,047 animals. There have been more than 59 miles of fence built along with numerous crossings, ramps, and water troughs in the DEP Northeast Region.

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