MRC, Ridgely farm win national award
— Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy Easton and Oakland View Farms in Ridgely, near the Chesapeake Bay, recently were awarded the national Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy for their collaboration focused on cleaning up local waters.
The award was given during the annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards in Chicago, Ill., in June. Timothy Rosen, MRC’s watershed scientist, Matt Pluta, its Choptank Riverkeeper, and Dick and Jan Edwards, owners of Oakland View Farms, accepted the prize.
The partnership between MRC and Oakview Farms began in 2010 and culminated in the construction of Maryland’s first denitrifying bioreactor, which treats water as it passes through drainage tile lines.
“Sustainability in agriculture is about partnering with organizations in our area and contributing to bettering our community,” Richard Edwards said. “We’ve seen a lot of great results, which help us stay in business longer. We’re excited about the future of ag and are always looking for new technology that will help us become better, more sustainable farmers down the road.”
According to MRC, the partnership reflected another important achievement as it signified a continuing shift in riverkeeper-farmer relations in the Delmarva region.
“Previous to this partnership, relations between the environmental and agriculture communities had often been strained,” MRC stated. “Eschewing traditional contentious paths such as litigation or combative legislation, the parties decided to work cooperatively.”
The partnership began with the design and installation of the bioreactor, and progressed as the parties began working together on research to quantify nitrogen removal from bioreactors.
This led to opportunities for an approved nitrogen removal efficiency in the Chesapeake Bay Model, potential phosphorus removal technologies for slurry (manure wastewater) and a conservation drainage program. As a result of this successful partnership, MRC has been able to successfully collaborate with seven more farmers and has designed, developed and installed nine more projects, including the first bioreactor in Delaware.
Since its installation in 2013, the initial bioreactor has reduced nitrate concentrations of water being treated through the system by nearly 100 percent, which helps prevent water quality issues like algae blooms, MRC said.
“Oakland View Farms’ partnership with Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy to restore and protect the waterways of Maryland’s Eastern Shore serves as a model for others across the country,” said Chad Frahm, senior vice president, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Their use of woodchip bioreactors to mitigate nitrogen runoff from manure is both practical and effective.”
Each of MRC’s watersheds is about 60 percent agricultural.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO From left are Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta, Jan and Dick Edwards from Oakland View Farms, Watershed Scientist Tim Rosen and Matt Nuckols, emcee for the awards ceremony.