Recently, RC&D staff set out into the field to conduct site visits and interview farmers in regards to their successes from this year’s aerial cover cropping efforts, as well as to briefly talk about their conservation practices in general. The farmer descriptions below embody some of the operations that have been working closely with the RC&D, and those we believe exemplify the kind of practices that can be extrapolated across the region as true soil conservation heroes, in this feature of what we have named “Farmer Outreach Spotlights.”
Mike Gross is a 3rd generation farmer, managing his lands in the rolling hills of Rosemont and Frenchtown in beautiful Hunterdon County. He has been no-tilling his property for 10 years. As of 2016, he has been a part of the NRCS/North Jersey RC&D aerial cover crop seeding program for 5+ years on his Frenchtown property. The aerial cover crops have shown great results the past couple of growing seasons, with this year’s radishes taking hold with hearty tap roots, and the crop as a whole really starting to green-up as the winter approaches.
The seed mixture for this year’s cover crop was comprised of a Cereal Rye, Crimson Clover, Red Clover and Tillage Radish mixture. Mike hires a consultant for the nutrient and pest management on his properties.
R.J. Fulper is a young farmer taking over the crop and hay portions of the Fulper family farm operation in scenic West Amwell in Hunterdon County. R.J. received his Bachelor’s degree in Crop Science at Delaware Valley College, and has since returned to the farm to work full time as the farm’s crop manager.
The approximately 1,000-acre farm has been no-tilling for almost 40 years, and using cover crop for 10 years. The Fulper farm runs a herd of approximately 250 head of cattle, comprised of 110 milking cows and 140 beef cattle. The farm has been recognized for their exceptional milk quality, previously receiving the Dairy of Distinction Award and the Dairy Herd Improvement Association Awards. They have also been recognized for several sustainability projects.
The farm has been in the aerial cover crop seeding program for the last 3 years, and the farm’s use of cover crop and no-till it has proven to be beneficial to increasing soil health. The Fulper Farm is in the process of becoming a River Friendly® Certified Farm.
Nestled down a half-mile long lane in the Musconetcong Valley, is the Beatty Farm. Owner and operator, Bernie Beatty, was born in 1950 and has been basically farming ever since. The Beatty Farm was a once a booming dairy farm, and a past awardee of the Dairy Producer of Distinction Award, an award given to those operations with outstanding farm facilities and stewardship. The milking herd was sold in 2013, and only 7 milking cows remain, but the Beatty Farm operation has made the transition to crop farming. Today, the Beatty’s grow corn, wheat, soybeans and alfalfa on their crop fields. In addition to their crop program, and handful of milking cows, they also now have a small herd of goats on the property.
This River Friendly® Certified Farm is comprised of 117 tillable acres, 80 of which were part of the NRCS/North Jersey RC&D aerial cover crop seeding program. The cover crop, which produced great results, has definitely been a beneficial component to the crop operation. This year, the cover crop seed mixture was comprised of cereal rye, crimson clover, red clover and tillage radish. Previous to his inclusion in the aerial cover crop seeding program, Bernie was running only a single species cover crop and drilling it in after crop harvest. This method often proves difficult, as success tends to be reliant on a number of different factors including weather, timing of harvest, and specific cover crop species limitations due to shorter growing degree days.
The River-Friendly Farm Program, directed by North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), is a voluntary certification program designed to recognize farms that protect our shared natural resources through responsible management. Producers seeking certification are evaluated on their soil loss management, pesticide management, nutrient management, conservation buffers, and irrigation water management. The Beatty Farm has been a certified River-Friendly Farm since 2014, the first within the Musconetcong Valley to earn such recognition.