Celebrating Conservation Success in Western Kentucky

by David Phemister, State Director at The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky Chapter

Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to western Kentucky to meet with some farmers and partners and review the great conservation work taking place in this corner of the Commonwealth.

My first stop was lunch with Jerry and Valarie Peery, who own and operate Springhill Farms, a row crop operation outside of Clinton, Kentucky. Jerry and Valarie are the recipients of the 2014 Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award®, and it was a real honor to meet them both and learn about the impressive work they are doing with soil health, a soil management approach that uses crop rotation and a multi-species cover crop during the winter to reduce runoff, decrease chemical inputs and improve the productivity of the soils.

I had this opportunity to meet the Peerys thanks to our great partners at the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), who arranged the tour and brought in Leonard Jordan, NRCS’s Associate Chief for Conservation. He came all the way from Washington for a Kentucky tour.

(from left) Leonard Jordan, Jerry Peery and NRCS State Conservationist, Karen Woodrich, at Springhill Farms

(l-r) Leonard Jordan, Jerry Peery, and NRCS State Conservationist, Karen Woodrich at Springhill Farms

After lunch, we drove to David Reed’s farm in McCracken County to tour a recent Wetland Reserve Program acquisition and restoration site. The Nature Conservancy, NRCS and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources have been working for several years to direct Wetland Reserve Program funding to floodplain lands along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

(l-r) Karen Woodrich, Leonard Jordan and Dan Ellison, past president of the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts, learn about wetland restoration on a cold and windy day along the Ohio River.

(l-r) Karen Woodrich, Leonard Jordan and Dan Ellison, past president of the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts, learn about wetland restoration on a cold and windy day along the Ohio River.

During that time, the partnership has enrolled more than 4,000 acres in the program. Conserving these lands will improve water quality and increase habitat for ducks, migratory birds and other wildlife in this important corridor for resident and migratory species.

(l-r) David Phemister, Shelly Morris and Jeff Sole from The Conservancy's Kentucky Chapter enjoy a day outdoors in Western Kentucky.

(l-r) David Phemister, Shelly Morris and Jeff Sole from The Conservancy’s Kentucky Chapter enjoy a day outdoors in Western Kentucky.

It was great to meet several landowners who had enrolled in the program. Each had an interesting story to tell about the tangible economic and ecological benefits the program had brought to them and their operations.