Roberts Farms honored for conservation efforts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Ed Morgan, chairman of the board for the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District, congratulates Todd Roberts, center, after Roberts Farms was named the 2015 Conservation Farm of the Year in Orleans County. Todd’s son, Mason, is at right.

GAINES – A family farm now in its fourth generation was honored today for decades of conservation efforts, including installation of drainage tile, planting cover crops, reducing chemical usage and optimizing soil health.

Roberts Farms was started in 1931 by Justin Roberts. He was succeeded by sons Orren and Lee. Todd Roberts joined the farm in 1986 and became a partner with his father Lee in 1993. Lee retired in 2000 from management but was active with the farm until his death on April 7, 2015.

Todd’s son Mason, 21, is now part of the farm when he is home from Morrisville College, where he is majoring in agri-business.

The Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District honors a farm each year for being committed to protecting the environment. Roberts Farms today was named the 2015 “Conservation Farm of the Year.”

The farm produces corn, wheat, soybeans, peas and lima beans on 2,000 acres in Orleans and Niagara counties. It is based on Salt Works Road in Shelby.

Todd Roberts, in accepting the award today, thanked Soil and Water staff for their expertise over the years with drainage tile, cover crops, grass waterways, soil testing and integrated pest management.

Gerald Scharping, the first Soil and Water district manager in 1972, assisted the farm in installing drainage tile about 40 years ago and Roberts said those tiles still work. Scharping attended today’s annual meeting.

State Sen. Robert Ortt congratulates the Roberts family on the conservation award. Ortt is pictured with, from left: Todd, Mason, Virginia and Deb Roberts.

Todd Roberts has a business card and letterhead that declares the farm is “Stewards of the land for generations.” The family has tried to live by those words in growing crops, Roberts said.

“You have to take care of the land and we have,” he said after Soil and Water’s annual meeting today at Tillman’s Village Inn.

State Sen. Rob Ortt and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley attended the meeting and presented the Roberts family with citations. Ortt said farmers are conservationists every day. A representative for Congressman Chris Collins also presented the family with a citation.

Dennis Kirby, the Soil & Water district manager, went over highlights from 2015 that included installing 245,000 feet of drainage tile (about 46 miles), surveying and designing 13 culverts, helping with 11,460 feet of ditches, and working with 15 farms to use Best Management Practices for conservation.

In addition, Soil and Water did its 15th annual shoreline cleanup and collected 489 pounds of trash from waterways, collected about 400 tires in its 10th annual tire cleanup, hosted Conservation Field Days at the farirgounds, sold 7,000 trees, 4,000 fish and maintained 5,275 feet of impaired waterways using a Slashbuster to remove debris and overgrown areas. The agency also works with farmers on agricultural value assessments, and is available to highway superintendents and residents for expertise.