Governor’s Agricultural, Conservation award winners honored

Georgie Cartanza, shown with her children, from left, Nicholas, Austin and Claudia, received the Kent County Agricultural Award. (DNREC photo/Joanna Wilson)

Georgie Cartanza, shown with her children, from left, Nicholas, Austin and Claudia, received the Kent County Agricultural Award. (DNREC photo/Joanna Wilson)

DOVER — The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village was the setting for Wednesday’s Stewardship Week proclamation presentation of the annual Governor’s Agricultural and Urban Conservation Awards.

Gov. Jack Markell, along with DNREC Deputy Secretary Kara Coats, Delaware Association of Conservation Districts President Robert Emerson and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Kasey Taylor, led a ceremony recognizing this year’s honorees and signed a proclamation officially designating April 24-30 as Soil and Water Stewardship Week in Delaware. The theme is “We All Need Trees.”

“In addition to providing shade, seasonal beauty and wildlife habitat, trees give us oxygen, cleaner air and reduced soil erosion, runoff and water pollution, to name just a few of their benefits,” Gov. Markell said.

• Kent County’s Agricultural Award was presented to Georgie Cartanza, Freedom Farm, Dover. In 2006, Ms. Cartanza started a poultry operation that consisted of four 65- by 600-foot poultry houses with a capacity of 156,000 roasters. She grew four-and-a-half flocks per year for Perdue Farms Inc. on Freedom Farm, just outside of Dover. In 2015, Ms. Cartanza converted to an organic poultry operation and currently grows broilers for Coleman Natural Foods at a rate of 156,000 birds per flock, five-and-a-half flocks per year.

Best management practices implemented on the farm consist of two 50- by 100-foot poultry manure storage structures, two 10- by 56-foot single channel composters and 12 concrete heavy-use area pads to provide proper storage of manure for improved water quality, manure management, poultry mortality management, waste handling, waste storage and nutrient management environmental concerns. These practices were implemented using cost share from the Kent Conservation District. The farm also has a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan in place for the poultry operation, written by KCD.

In 2015, Ms. Cartanza obtained a hedgerow planting contract with the Natural Resource Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program to plant 5,380 feet of trees as a buffer around the poultry operation to provide shelter from wind, reduce particulates, ammonia and other odors from ventilation fans, as well as shade to reduce summer heat and create a visual screen from surrounding areas. Ms. Cartanza has also used her own funding to improve poor lighting in her poultry houses by upgrading to LED lights. She has applied for the EQIP program again this year to obtain an Energy Audit to make further energy efficient upgrades to her poultry operation.

In January 2015, Ms. Cartanza received the 2014 Environmental Stewardship Award from the Delaware Department of Agriculture for her efforts to improve water quality and reduce nutrient runoff. In her free time, she travels to local elementary schools to educate youth on important aspects of farming and where your food comes from. Ms. Cartanza is currently a member of the Farm Bureau, Delmarva Poultry Industry, and assists with Farm Assessments for Mid Atlantic Farm Credit.

• Kent County Levy Court received the Urban Award. In 2014, Kent County implemented a Stormwater Maintenance District to maintain privately owned stormwater basins, best management practices and related components of the drainage infrastructure, using existing county practices for developing other districts such as sanitary sewage collection and refuse removal as the basis for the new SWMD. New residential developments that have stormwater management facilities are required to join the SWMD. Existing residential developments are given the option to join by petition.

One of the most difficult issues regarding surface water management in Delaware and throughout the country is reliance on private entities for the maintenance of stormwater management structures or facilities. The SWMD allows Kent County and the Kent Conservation District to perform maintenance on stormwater facilities in participating communities to ensure the facilities function properly to prevent flooding and maintain water quality. Many homeowner associations in Kent County are not prepared to address long-term maintenance and associated costs of stormwater facility upkeep. Failure to perform routine preventative maintenance can lead to higher future repair/rebuild costs and loss of effective water quality treatment.

Communities that participate in the project benefit by having their stormwater facilities professionally managed, and by having a dedicated funding source to address near-term and long-term maintenance and reconstruction needs. The cost of the program is $28 per year per household.

Kent County’s SWMD stands as a model not only in Delaware, but also nationwide as a way for local and county governments to relieve homeowners of the burden of maintenance of private stormwater facilities and to provide an alternative funding mechanism short of implementing a full stormwater utility.

Kent County and the Kent Conservation District worked with community stakeholders such as Homeowners Associations Resolving Problems to conduct public outreach prior to undertaking the formation of the SWMD.

Other awards

• Sussex County Agricultural Award: Allen and Sondra Messick, Seaford. The Messicks have a longstanding relationship with the Sussex Conservation District as strong supporters of cover crops and soil health, participating every year in the District’s cover crop program. Last year, they also participated in the SCD’s Air Seeder Pilot Program, planting a radish and cereal rye mix into standing corn.

• Sussex County Urban Award: The Ridings of Rehoboth Beach Homeowners Association. Located off Beaver Dam and Hopkins Road in Lewes, the Ridings of Rehoboth Beach is a 225-lot community which drains into Bundicks Branch, a tributary of the Inland Bays. With its Sediment and Stormwater Management Plan approved by the Sussex Conservation District in 2005, the development’s infrastructure was constructed during the height of the market, with builders anticipating the planned community would be complete within a short time frame. However, when building construction came to a halt in the late 2000s, the Ridings, like many developments, was left with unfinished phases unmaintained for years.

Today, as the community nears completion, all six of its stormwater facilities are in compliance with SCD.

• New Castle County Agricultural Award: Emerson Family Farm, Middletown. A fifth-generation dairy operation, Emerson Farms represents the diversity required to maintain and sustain a multi-generational family business. With the purchase of their first farm in 1947, the Emerson family has worked hard to grow their farm over the past 70 years. Changing with the times, the Emersons have adopted 21st century nutrient management technology and numerous conservation-related practices for daily use on nearly 2,000 acres of owned and rented tillable land. Minimizing nutrient impacts on their land and that of their neighbors and staying profitable makes Emerson Farms a standout in an ever-changing farm economy.

• New Castle County Urban Award: Green Valley 2nd Street Streambank Stabilization Project, Project Coordinator Roy Hall, Newark. The Green Valley 2nd Street Streambank Stabilization Project began with a request in 2005 from then-state representative Pam Maier for New Castle Conservation District to prepare an estimate to correct the erosion “in and around 300 2nd Street.”The project benefited 17 town homes through a design combining imbricated stone (overlapped like roof shingles) and an internal underdrain pipe drainage system to stabilize and control erosion outside of the White Clay Creek floodplain.

• Delaware Association of Conservation Districts’ Legislator of the Year: Sen. Karen E. Peterson, D-Stanton. The Delaware Association of Conservation Districts also recognized Sen. Peterson with an annual award given to a legislator for outstanding service, loyalty and devotion to conservation efforts in Delaware.

• Second place winner of National Conservation Poster Contest: Also receiving special recognition at the awards ceremony was Maylene Drew Ferrin, a home-schooled 10th grader from Hartly. Maylene was Delaware’s state high school level winner in the Delaware Association of Conservation Districts annual conservation poster contest, qualifying her colorful poster for entry representing Delaware in the National Association of Conservation Districts’ conservation poster contest. Her poster, which was displayed with other national winners at the NACD’s annual meeting in Reno, Nevada, was framed and presented back to her Wednesday.

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