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Friday, November 14th, 2008

Annual Mercer SWCD banquet and meeting held

Conservation awards, scholarship handed out; two board supervisors elected

By Nancy Allen

The Garrett and Judy Hellwarth and Sam and Nita Hellwarth families of Celina rec. . .

COLDWATER - The Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District presented awards, a scholarship and elected two board supervisors during its 64th annual banquet Thursday in Coldwater.
The American Legion hall was packed, most likely due to the 74-cent ticket price. This "farmer's share" ticket price was meant to show how much money the farmer would actually make from the meal, based on the 19 cents of every dollar a producer actually makes.
The Garrett and Judy Hellwarth and Sam and Nita Hellwarth families of rural Celina received the Outstanding Cooperator of the Year Award.
The Hellwarths farm roughly 600 acres and have 30 acres of woods in Hopewell Township. They grow corn, soybeans, wheat and hay in rotation with all of their wheat no-tilled, 3/4 of their soybeans no-tilled, and all of the corn using minimum tillage. They test their soil every other year.
Garrett, along with his family and employee Dave Moorman, milk 140 cows twice each day. They also have 70 steers and 140 heifers. The Mercer SWCD office is working with Hellwarth Farms to update a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) for better nutrient management and utilization.
The Hellwarths established filter strips on many of their open ditches and worked with the state Forester over the last few years to maintain wooded acres. Sam and Garrett systematically tiled all of their ground. The Hellwarths were involved in two group tile main projects in the last five years, working with neighboring landowners to accomplish them. The Hellwarth family was the 1999 award winners of the Environmental Stewardship Dairy Award for the state of Ohio.
Sam Hellwarth served on the SWCD, Mercer Landmark, and Farm Bureau boards. He and his wife also hosted numerous international 4-H members and countless school groups on their farm over the years. The couple has four married sons.
Garrett and Judy Hellwarth have six children. They are involved with their children's activities and in the Mercer County Farm Bureau. They have been 4-H advisers for 20 years.
Tom Rogers of rural Rockford received the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) award. The CREP program pays landowners to take farmland out of production and plant it with grasses that help conserve soil. He farms about 1,500 acres in Blackcreek and Dublin townships in the St. Marys Watershed, including 500 acres of corn, 800 of soybeans and 200 of wheat. Most of his crops are planted using no-till. He has established 49.1 acres of filter strips on his land, including filter strips along all his open ditches.
Receiving a $500 scholarship sponsored by the SWCD and Marion Mutual Insurance in Maria Stein this year is Kyle Brockman, Fort Recovery. He could not attend and his sister, Kelsey Brockman, accepted the award on his behalf. Kyle Brockman, the son of Gary and Janet Brockman, is a sophomore at the Ohio State University studying animal science/pre-veterinary. He plans to attend veterinary college with an emphasis on dairy cattle and come back to the area to practice. In high school he was active in FFA, earning his State and American FFA degrees, and in 4-H. He has worked nearly full time on a local dairy farm for the past 61/2 years, helping with every facet of the operation, including field work, animal health and manure management.
Two local students also received awards for winning the individual portions of this year's county soil judging contest.
Kelsey Brockman (Kyle's sister), a junior at Fort Recovery High School, received a plaque from the SWCD for winning the individual portion of the soil judging contest in the urban division, and Ben Siefring, a junior at Coldwater High School, received a plaque from the SWCD for winning the individual portion in the rural division. Siefring could not attend the dinner. The contest was held at the Dan Dues farm on state Route 118 just south of Coldwater.
Don Pohlman and Brother Nick Renner were elected to the Mercer SWCD board of supervisors Thursday night. Pohlman, who was re-elected, will start his second term. Renner was appointed to the board in September to fill the unexpired term of Brother Don Fisher, who resigned in June and died June 25 after battling cancer. Also running for election was Gary Siebert, Rockford.
Various SWCD staff gave reports of the year's activities and accomplishments. District Administrator and Education Specialist Nikki Hawk noted she and watershed coordinator Laura Walker more than doubled the amount of educational programs offered to youth and adults in the county this year.
Technician Matt Heckler reported the Mercer SWCD tripled grass waterways it installed in the county this year, jumping from 1.6 miles in 2007 to 6.5 miles in 2008. Grass waterways help stop the formation of gullies and reduce soil erosion in farm fields. The SWCD office saw a sizable increase in many other types of conservation methods last year and this year, due in large part to $200,000 in state money leveraged by state Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, to pay farmers in the Grand Lake Watershed to implement conservation practices.
Providing entertainment for the evening was Craig Muhlenkamp, a juggler from Coldwater. He made his entrance juggling tennis balls while riding a unicycle down the middle of the dining hall. He also juggled a chair, bowling balls, hatchets, a decorative fake pumpkin, a Reece's cup, fire wands, clubs and a chain saw throughout the evening.
Additional online story on this date
CHICKASAW - An Ohio Farmers Union representative - speaking locally Thursday night - encourages local farmers to form do-it-yourself groups to invest in wind turbines to keep the profits in the community. [More]
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