The Siebeneck family accepts the Cooperator-of-the-Year Award from Commissioner Vince Schroeder (right).

PUTNAM COUNTY — The annual combined meeting of the Putnam Soil & Water Conservation District and the Putnam County Farm Bureau was held last Wednesday, Sept. 5 at the Kalida K of C. The evening consisted of recognitions for the Conservation Leader Award and the Cooperator-of-the-Year Award, along with a presentation by the Envirothon team from Ft. Jennings which recently returned from the national competition in Utah, and the election of two members to the SWCD Board of Supervisors.

Dale & Ruth Gerding received the Conservation Leader Award. When presenting the award, County Commissioner John Love noted their contributions to the county beyond farming, most notably as hosts of the annual Farm Safety Day Camp.

“…The Gerding Farm was the perfect layout for covering all topics,” Love said. “Third graders from all county schools, including home schooled, come every year to learn more about farm safety…To date, the camp has educated around 9,500 students.”

Regarding the recognition of the evening, Love highlighted their efforts as responsible farmers, saying, “The Gerding farm has been a Soil and Water cooperator since 1987 and has been a leader in programs such as CRP grassed waterways and filter strips, highly erodible land plans, no-till, soil testing and more.”

County Commissioner Vince Schroeder presented the Cooperator-of-the-Year Award to Siebeneck Farms.

“After the hog market took a turn in the 90’s,” Schroeder related, “Gary and Mark took the farms focus to corn, soybean, and wheat production. As of today, they are currently farming around 1000 acres in Greensburg, Perry, and Union townships of corn and soybeans with a little wheat and alfalfa in the crop rotation.”

“Siebeneck Farms conservation practices range from variable rate fertilizer, minimal and no till tillage, cover crops, controlled drainage structures, grassed waterways, and a recently installed saturated buffer. With three licensed applicators and a CCA on the farm they are at the forefront of doing what is best for their operation and the environment. Making conservation practices work is not a one year idea, but a continual effort to better the acres they are covering.”

Following the awards presentations, the State-winning Envirothon team from Ft. Jennings, led by their advisor Jeff Jostpille, shared a slideshow of the team’s participation in the international Envirothon competition in Pocatello, Idaho.

Their presentation touched on aspects of the competition (such as learning about and subsequently identifying different species of western grass - whether the species is native or introduced, beneficial or not, and other characteristics), as well as the team’s visit to nearby areas, such as Teton National Park and the Great Salt Lake, where some of the students went swimming (or, more accurately, floating, which the salt content of the lake encourages).

There were three candidates vying for the two SWCD Board Supervisor positions: Kyle Haselman, John Koenig, and Jeff Duling.

Haselman, who was seeking his second term as supervisor, lives in Leipsic with his family where he farms a few hundred acres of soybean, corn, and wheat - all no-till. He is also part owner Haselman Hay & Straw, and, as a Leipsic FFA Alumni, he enjoys teaching students about GPS and future agriculture opportunities.

Koenig resides just outside of Cuba with his family. He teaches Agricultural Education at Miller City-New Cleveland High School. Prior to moving back to the area, Koenig worked at the Scotts Miracle Grow Co., where he managed a global research initiative focused on promoting lawn health while reducing eutrophication.

Duling has served SWCD Board as a Supervisor since 2007, and is currently serving on the Area 1 SWCD Board of Directors. On the family farm in Ottawa, Duling and his brothers have implemented no-till, strip till, vertical tillage, and cover crops. The Duling’s also have over 40 acres in filter strips and waterways.

Following the vote tally, Haselman and Duling were re-elected to their SWCD Board Supervisor positions.