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Sheland Farm's Shelamidine family earned Ag Environmental Management award by keeping cows and cropland covered.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

August 6, 2013

3 Min Read

The Shelmidine family of Adams, N.Y., will be feted as recipients of the 2013 New York Agricultural Environmental Management Award during this afternoon's New York Ag Leadership Luncheon at Empire Farm Days.

Donald Shelmidine and sons Doug and Todd have found it best to keep their cattle and crops "under cover" – roofs for all dairy animals, plus crop residues and cover crops on their fields. Even Sheland Farms' manure lagoon is covered.

THE SHELMIDINES: (From left) Dylan, Christopher, Todd, Kaitlyn, Donald, Erik, Susan, Jessica, Devon and Doug.

It all fits with the farm's commitment to protecting the environment. Part of the farm's mission statement says: "It is to be a progressive, respected, contributing part of our community and a good steward of God's many resources." Today, business' partners, Doug and Todd plus senior partner Don are making good on that commitment with plentiful help from their third generation.

The Jefferson County dairy farms 1,650 acres of alfalfa hay, corn silage, corn for grain, soybeans and small grains – all of it supporting their 775-cow milking herd. Working closely with the Soil and Water Conservation District, Sheland Farms' conservation and environmental protection measures go above and beyond those required for their concentrated animal feeding operation.

The family has played in key role in putting in place the state's AEM program in the Sandy Creek project. Doug has served on USDA's Agricultural Air Quality Taskforce for 10 years. "Meeting CAFO requirement has been challenging," he acknowledges. "But our SWCD has helped us solve most problems arising."

Systems approach
A manure solids separator and methane digester were installed in 2007. They began composting manure solids for bedding and generating electricity. Last year, a second separator was installed to remove more solids. The original projected pay-back was five to seven years. But as Doug estimates that it's more like 12 years, due to maintenance costs.

Close to half of the farmland is no-tilled to minimize soil compaction. The rest is minimum-tilled.

Liquid manure is applied via draghose and is quickly followed up with either an Aerway or turbo-till tool for incorporation. Most is spring-applied just ahead of planting or on growing hay ground to maximize nutrient uptake and minimize nutrient losses.

Triticale is fall-seeded after corn silage harvest. Some is used as cover only. Some is harvested as silage before corn planting, while some is harvested for grain and cover crop seed. It builds soil health and conserves nutrients, points out Doug.

The Shelmidines are active in the New York Farm Bureaus, 4-H, FFA and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association. In 2006, their farm was honored the Rural Entrepreneur of the Year award by the Small business Development Center of the State University of New York. In 2011, it was chosen as Jefferson County SWCD's Conservation Farm.

The AEM award, now in its 20th year, is co-sponsored by the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, Empire State Potato Growers, and American Agriculturist magazine. Judges for this year's competition included: Jackie Czub, deputy commissioner of New York's Department of Ag and Markets; Brian Steinmuller, assistant director of the state Soil and Water Conservation Committee; John Williams, president of the Empire State Potato Growers; and John Vogel, editor of American Agriculturist.

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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