9 farms will share $204K grant for conservation work

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 July 2014 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Nine farms in two watersheds will share $204,812 in matching grants to plant cover crops after the main crop has been harvested. The cover crops will reduce soil erosion and improve soil health, likely boosting farmers’ yields, said Dennis Kirby, manager for the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District.

Soil & Water was awarded the grant and will distribute the funding over three years to two farmers in the Johnson Creek Watershed and seven farms in the Sandy Creek Watershed.

Johnson Creek Watershed is in the towns of Carlton, Yates, Ridgeway and Shelby. The Sandy Creek Watershed is mostly on the eastern end of the county and the town of Albion.

The grant to Orleans was part of $13.8 million in state grants approved for more than 200 farmers in 32 counties.

“Investing in our farms will help keep our agricultural industry competitive while maintaining the high standards of agricultural products that the Empire State is known for,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “By enhancing conservation methods, we are ensuring the continued economic success of our farms as well as the protection of our natural resources. These grants will not only have an immediate effect on our agricultural sector but will also make New York a cleaner, greener, more sustainable state for future generations.”

The grant in Orleans will help pay for the costs of planting cover crops after farmers harvest corn, vegetables or other cash crops, Kirby said.

“By keeping a living crop growing on the land as long as possible, the soil biology is improved, helping the next cash crop to grow and yield better,” he said. “The growing cover helps storm water soak into the soil, rather than run off taking sediment and nutrients with it.”

Cover crops also recycle nutrients left from the cash crop, making them available for the next crop. The cover crop will often help suppress weed growth and diseases, while encouraging beneficial insect habitat, Kirby said.

“This will result in reduced pesticide use in the future,” he said.

Soil and Water obtained a similar grant last year for nine farms in the Oak Orchard Watershed in the towns of Barre, Albion, Ridgeway, Gaines and Carlton.