Wyoming County Farm Family Recognized for Exceptional Stewardship Efforts

Sep 19, 2007

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker recently announced the recipients of the 2007 Agricultural Environmental Management Award, which honors farm families and their county Soil and Water Conservation District for exceptional stewardship efforts.

The Jeffres Family of R.L. Jeffres & Sons, Inc. in Covington and the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District received this year’s Agricultural Environmental Management Award. The award presentation was made by the Commissioner at the 74th annual Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls.

“When you live off the land, there is no greater resource than the soil and water that surrounds your business,” the Commissioner said. “Farmers recognize that fact and work diligently to not only produce a healthy product for all to consume, but to protect our environment for all to enjoy. Congratulations to the Jeffres family and the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District. Because of your hard work and conscious efforts in protecting New York’s precious resources, we are all winners today.”

This recognition is awarded annually to a farm family that practices sound agricultural stewardship by incorporating Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) into the operation of their farm business. The county Soil and Water Conservation District is also recognized for their important role providing necessary technical assistance and resources.

R.L. Jeffres & Sons, Inc. is owned by Robert L. and Shirley Jeffres and is a 7,800 acre cash crop farm that grows corn, peas, dry beans, snap beans, beets, carrots, alfalfa and wheat. In 2006, they started growing organic corn, soybeans and snap beans. The farm has been in operation since 1914 and currently has the third, fourth and fifth generations involved on the farm.

The fourth generation of Jeffres, which includes brothers James, Daniel and Thomas Jeffres, along with their sister Cathleen Penders, operates the farm today. This family has a long-standing commitment to natural resource conservation and water quality protection on their farm. The Jeffres believe that it is important to maintain soil composition and preserve the environment.

The Jeffres were the first farmers in Wyoming County to sign a cooperators agreement with the county Soil and Water Conservation District back in 1941 and were also one of the first farms to participate in the AEM Program. \‘The family is always working to maintain and improve their soil and water conservation practices,” said District Manager Greg McKurth. “Over the years, they have implemented a tremendous number of conservation practices to protect their farm’s natural resources.”

The Jeffres have planted cover crops, installed strip crops, diversion ditches and over 100 miles of drainage tile to minimize soil erosion and nutrient runoff. They follow the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that encourages scouting and assessing pests, which limits the amount of pesticides used on crops. The Jeffres have also installed more than 30 acres of vegetative buffer strips along streams to protect water quality.

The Jeffres are also part owners in a 2,000 cow dairy farm, which provides a source of organic nutrients for their crop land helping to save on fertilizer costs. They have completed a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan for the dairy, which is used to help conserve soil, recycle nutrients and manage their farm business in harmony with the environment.

John Vogel, Editor of the American Agriculturalist, said, “The Jeffres family are superb proof that even larger-scale family farms can have a high regard for the environment. They clearly understand that preserving soil and water quality is crucial today so their families can prosper in the tomorrows to come.”

Melanie Wickham, Executive Secretary for Empire Potato Growers Inc., said, “Farmers have always been the best environmental stewards and it is exciting for the Empire State Potato Growers to be a part of recognizing farmers for their long-standing commitment.”

The Jeffres are active members of their community, serving in the County Farm Bureau, Cooperative Extension and Chamber of Commerce. They are also local sponsors for various athletic, youth and civic organizations, including the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, the local fire department, and community hospital.

New York’s AEM program serves as a national model of how a voluntary, incentive-based approach can successfully result in protecting and enhancing the State’s soil and water resources, while meeting the economic needs of our diverse agricultural industry. The AEM partnership of local, state and federal agencies, environmental groups, businesses and farmers, provides the technical, educational and financial assistance to develop and implement sound conservation plans.

The Agricultural Environmental Management Award is jointly sponsored by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Agriculturist Magazine and the Empire State Potato Growers. The award winner was chosen from nominees submitted by County Soil and Water Conservation Districts from around the State.