Local farmers meet for informative no till farming seminar

About 400 farmers attended a workshop at Shady Maple Conference Center on Dec. 9 to learn more about how they can protect the water source.

Ray Archulata, soil health specialist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Services, engaged the attendees with a very informative interactive session on how no-till farming can preserve the nutrients in the soil and prevent erosion. He invited those from the audience to help with his demonstrations of how no-till farming prevents erosion and how different types of soils disintegrate. Questions were answered from farmers.

Informative related literature was provided by the Lancaster Farmland Trust, the Lancaster County Conservation District, Team Ag, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance, Stroud Research Center and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Also, Jeff Stoltzfus, Elanco Adult education instructor, provided local contact information.

Other speakers were Bob Rissler from Terre Hill Borough; Dave Zimmerman, East Earl; Gary Van Dyke, Caernarvon Township; and Aaron Hurst, Mennonite Community Representative. A panel comprised of Dan Zimmerman from Warwick Township, Chris Sigmund from Team Ag and farm practitioners Nelson Weaver, Raymond King, Elam Hurst and Eugene Nolt provided information from their work experiences.

Funding for the event came from the municipalities, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the Water Resources Education Network and the vendors participating in the workshop.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation provides a Primer on pollutants of concern. The Foundation has invested resources in a 64,000 square mile watershed. The investments are gaining momentum and now are having impact on Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment have contributed to the poor health of the bay. A graph from 2011 points out that agriculture is responsible for 53 percent of the nitrogen load entering the Chesapeake Bay. Waste water-related pollution only amounts to 12 percent of the pollution. Pollutants from urban and non- urban storm water sources amount to 15 percent of the nitrogen load. Agriculture is said to be responsible for 54 percent of the total amount of phosphorus and 62 percent of the sediment entering the bay.

But an article from Lancaster Newspapers pointed out 700,000 gallons of untreated sewage flows into the Susquehanna River annually during floods when the treatment plant there is overwhelmed with storm water. There are other towns and cities along the Susquehanna where similar situations exist.

The Foundation is addressing sprawl and land use. Blighted abandoned areas in cities and towns, factories in rural areas, cookie cutter subdivisions and strip malls help to create sprawl. This has caused traffic jams, long travel times, water pollution and the demise of prime farmland.

Pennsylvania has fast become a leader in supporting and promoting sprawl. The state is 48th in population growth but 5th in promoting sprawl. Between 1982 and 1997, urbanized areas increased 47 percent in Pennsylvania while the population grew 2.5 percent.

More than 100,000 acres are lost to sprawl in this state annually. Poorly planned and sprawling development has some negative results.

Another problem is that municipalities must provide zoning for all uses. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pennsylvania has to reform the role of the state and counties in land use planning, the Municipal Planning Code must be revised and updated, enhanced comprehensive master plans are needed which specify open space and prime farm land are needed and communities should revise and update zoning ordinances.

It was evident from the active discussions that those in attendance were very interested and gained knowledge from the experience.

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