CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nobel Farms Inc. located near Burlington in Mineral County is competing for the 2019 West Virginia Conservation Farm of the Year. The farm, run by Lukas and Gabby Newcomer, were announced as 1 of 2 finalists in the annual state competition that’s ranks farms on their environmental ecological impact.
Nobel Farms was selected along with Mason County’s Hussell Farm because of a demonstrated commitment to land preservation practices that help protect soil, streams, water, grasses, wildlife and other natural resources.
A panel of 11 judges began a series of tours at both farms starting Tuesday to judge their use of best practices to mitigate ecological impact and in addition their community based activities.
Nobel’s Mason County competition participate in a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency in which the farmers have barred off livestock from a 16-acre creek area. According to the USDA the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) encourages farmers to convert the land back to native grasses, trees and other vegetation to help enhance wildlife habitats and improve water quality.
Mr. Newcomer exercises a similar practice, in which he excludes his livestock – including cattle, pigs, hens, broiler chickens and turkeys – from nearby Patterson Creek. Newcomer has also planted around 150 sugar maple trees near the creek. Such practices reduce detritus sediment, nutrients, nitrogen and other pollutants entering the stream, and ultimately help improve the quality of waters, which eventually feed into the Chesapeake Bay. These efforts also foster improved wildlife habitats and will provide a future source of shade for animals.
Lukas realized that excluding the livestock from waterways would keep them from shade, so he built portable shade structures to provide the animals with cover in the pasture. Lukus says he practices “intensive rotational grazing,” a process wherein cattle are rotated through paddocks every day to lessen their impact on any one given spot of land.
Lukus said, “That’s allowing us to extend our grazing season long into the winter and using less hay. It’s allowing us to build soil health and organic matter by not having to put a lot of inputs in but by managing cattle and moving them to fresh pasture every day.”
Nobel Farms also regularly seeks scientific expertise of soil, farming, grazing and forestry consultants to better manage the farm. Among their local outreach efforts, Lukas recently hosted sustainable agriculture students from Potomac State College at the farm.
The winner between the 2 finalists will be named October 22 at the West Virginia Conservation Partnership Conference Banquet in Flatwoods. The winners will take home $1,000, a sign to display at their farm and are awarded 200 hours use of a new John Deere tractor from Middletown Tractor Sales in Fairmont.