When asked what his father and grandfather instilled in him as a young dairy farmer, Dean Jackson had one word: “Resilience.”
“The thing I learned more than anything is there are a lot of trends. A lot of trends come and go. You have to pick what works for your farm and stick with it,” Dean said upon receiving the Leopold Conservation Award at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Dean and his wife, Rebecca, owners of Mt. Glen Farms in Columbia Cross Roads, received $10,000 and a crystal trophy as part of the award.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers, ranchers and foresters in 20 states who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land.
In Pennsylvania, the award is sponsored by Heinz Endowments, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the Sand County Foundation.
The Jacksons were among three finalists for the award. The other finalists were Glen Cauffman of Millerstown and Troy Firth of Spartansburg.
The Jacksons farm 900 acres and have a well-known herd of registered Holsteins.
While the dairy is the main source of income, they’ve also branched out into semen and hay sales, as well as sales of commodities.
The herd’s rolling herd average is 26,000 pounds. Components, longevity and lifetime profits are what they strive for, he said.
The cows are milked in a tie-stall barn that was built in 1971. It’s been improved over the years with rubber mattresses for cow comfort and other improvements.
“We try to be cow care experts, that's the goal,” he said. “We love working with our cows. They are fun to work with. They're like our dogs and cats.”
Passion for conservation
The Jacksons are passionate about leaving a better farm behind for their children.
Dean’s grandfather, Scott Jackson, who started the farm in 1929, practiced contour strip cropping, planted trees and hedgerows, built surface water diversions, and preserved habitat for wildlife, according to a press release from Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
When Dean’s father, Ben, took over the farm, he constructed a manure storage facility to better use nutrients to grow crops while protecting water quality.
Dean himself has embraced conservation practices. He’s gone 100% no-till and implemented a rotational grazing system on 20 acres of pasture.
Trees have been planted on 40 acres near a creek to provide habitat for wildlife and space for runoff to infiltrate.
Chris TorresPARTNERS IN SUCCESS: Dean and Rebecca Jackson received the Leopold Conservation Award at this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show. They own Mt. Glen Farms in Columbia Cross Roads.
In the 1990s he had a nutrient management plan for the farm written, even though at the time it was only required of the state’s largest livestock operations.
Permanent grass borders surround the crop fields and regular soil sampling is done to check on nutrient levels.
Two-thirds of the farm’s energy needs come from a solar array installed on the roof of a machinery shed.
The next generation is heavily involved in the farm’s operation, including a daughter, Katie, the farm’s herd manager, and son, Kyle, an environmental technician who helps on weekends.
“In the scope of eternity, we're on this Earth for just a blip, just a dot. We have a short period of time to make a difference,” Dean said. “That’s why we have to be on the ball and doing everything we can to conserve our natural resources, to leave it for the next generation.”