It was a very hot day but by our evening meeting there was a bit of a breeze. About thirty people attended and took the farm tour offered by farm owner Carolyn Krome with her husband Mike, driving the flatbed “tour mobile.” Persimmon Tree Farm was the first horse farm to receive the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program (FSCAP) recognition from the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts. Following her example, 28 horse farms were certified, covering over 3,000 acres in the Maryland Chesapeake Bay water shed. Meadowbrook Stables is the most recent FSCAP certified horse farm. The Maryland Horse Council is a leader in encouraging horse farms to receive recognition for their quality farm management – with nutrient management and conservation plans – creating a healthy home for horses and protecting the natural environment.
Persimmon Tree Farm, in addition to lovely pastures, has plantings of pollinators, reconstructed wetlands and native grasses. These plantings are supported by the Conservation Reserve Program.
What is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)?The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a land conservation program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. Contracts for land enrolled in CRP are 10-15 years in length. The long-term goal of the program is to re-establish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.
After the farm tour, we returned to the ring-side picnic tables for sandwiches sponsored by the American Wood Fibers company. Our speakers program was organized by Carolyn Krome. First to address the group was Bryan Harris of the Maryland Department of Agriculture who described the process of preparing a nutrient management plan which is required in the state for any horse farm with eight or more horses. The nutrient management plan is prepared by a certified planner and confidentially filed with the Department of Agriculture. Questions from the group included whether manure deposited by horses in the field needs to be counted – no, at least not yet; when is winter spread prohibited – November 15 to March 1 – and there are programs available for cost-sharing to build manure storage units; and if the place where hauled-off manure is taken is tracked – not really.
Stan Pennington, Carroll County Soil Conservation Planner of the National Resources Conservation Service, spoke on Conservation Best Management Practices for horse farms, including stream fencing and erosion control. He, and several members of the group, noted that the Soil Conservation staff is always available to provide advice and to guide farm owners and managers to information, technical assistance and financing to upgrade conservation practices. He noted that staff could provide help on a variety of farms and that soil specialists do not necessarily need to be equine specialists. It was noted that many horse farm owners and managers are unaware of the services available to them through the National Resources Conservation Service and ideas are need as to how to better promote the services in the horse community.
Donna L. Davis, the Carroll Country Forest Service forester of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, noted that many horse farms have forests or woodlots that may be threatened by a variety of invasive plants and diseases. She said that there is a threat to oak trees that bears special attention in our area. Horse farm owners may be eligible for technical and financial resources to manage their forests. They can call on the Forest Service to take a look at the trees on their property and discuss options for managing them to protect the trees and wildlife habitat.
Gerald Talbert, consultant for the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program (FSCAP), reminded the group that the FSCAP program is completely voluntary and encouraged horse farm owners with well-managed farms to go ahead and join the program to get credit for their farm stewardship and be counted in the growing list of certified horse farms.
Once again, thanks to Carolyn Krome for organizing and hosting this Farm Stewardship meeting and her leadership on quality environmental management of horse farms. Also thanks to Shelly Ingram, Montgomery County Equine Specialist, Soil Conservation District, for helping out with the promotion of the meeting. And finally, to the team at the Maryland Horse Council for supporting and promoting good farm stewardship on Maryland horse farms.
Stay tuned for news on the Fall Maryland Horse Council Farm Stewardship Meeting. For more information on our programs, please contact Jane Thery at email@example.com