Westmoreland District Honors Farm Conservation Efforts

This year, Westmoreland Conservation District’s awards banquet returns on September 13, featuring a bountiful local foods buffet made from products that have been grown, raised, or produced right here in Westmoreland County. 

All Saints Brewing Company, Bardine’s Country Smokehouse, Friendship Farms, Greenhouse Winery, Hoffer’s Ligonier Valley Packing, Kerber’s Dairy, Sarver Hill Farm, and Turner Dairy Farms are among the area producers supplying foods and beverages for the event, which will be held at Westmoreland Country Club in Export.  Table centerpieces are being provided by local grower, Jason Wilkinson Nursery.

Festivities begin at 6 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, followed by the local foods buffet and an awards presentation honoring outstanding conservationists, including:

-- William and Dianna Hoffer of Mount Pleasant Township, recipients of the 2011 Conservation Farmer of the Year Award, and

-- the Yuris Family (Nick, Marian, David and John) of Blairsville, recipients of the 2012 Conservation Farmer of the Year Award.

Also at the banquet, the first-ever J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award will be presented to the Westmoreland County Commissioners, past and present, and J. Roy Houston, the District’s long-time chairman, will be posthumously inducted into the District’s Hall of Honor.

William and Dianna Hoffer, the Westmoreland Conservation District’s 2011 Conservation Farmer of the Year, are being recognized for the conservation measures they’ve installed on their 120-acre Mount Pleasant Township dairy cow and beef cattle farm, including an exceptionally large diversion ditch that keeps water runoff from the fields away from the family’s homestead, special animal walkways that limit the impact of the cows on the soil and water, and a 40-foot-wide vegetated buffer that helps protect water quality in the stream that runs through their property on its way to Jacobs Creek.

Because the District did not hold an awards banquet last year, the Hoffers will formally receive their award at this year’s banquet.

The Yuris family of Blairsville will receive the District’s 2012 Conservation Farmer of the Year Award.  Nick Yuris and his wife Marian started farming this 115-acre site in 1978 and over the years, they and sons David and John have created a model dairy farm with a variety of conservation measures that not only help improve the operation’s productivity, but also benefit the community by protecting the quality of Spruce Run, a high quality cold water fishery that flows from their farm directly into the Conemaugh River. 

The Yuris’s conservation practices include rotational strip cropping, using no-till planting techniques, and the creation of three specially designed access roads that allow them to move equipment around the farmstead without running through the stream or having runoff flow out onto the nearby public road.

The Westmoreland County Commissioners, past and present, are the first recipients of the new J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award.  It is being given to them in recognition of the historically strong and consistent support they provide for the District’s conservation work, which helps improve the quality of life for all our citizens.  The Commissioners’ support also helps the District attract a significant amount of additional funding from state, federal, and foundation sources that also has been invested in quality of life improvements throughout our county. 

The willingness of the Westmoreland County Commissioners to partner with the District on projects also has helped the organization develop partnerships in new and sometimes nontraditional areas, such as economic development and the business community, all for the benefit of our region and its resources.

The new J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award was created to honor the memory and spirit of Houston, whose 40 years of service as the District’s chairman from 1970 until his death in 2010 was the longest volunteer commitment in the District’s history. 

During his tenure, Houston’s ability to bring people together forged a wide variety of important partnerships with organizations and individuals that accomplished many positive things for our local environment, including:  cleanup work on Monastery Run in Latrobe and Sewickley Creek at Lowber and Brinkerton…a comprehensive flood control project in the Jacobs Creek Watershed…an investment of nearly a million dollars in conservation measures on farms in the Kiski-Conemaugh Watershed…improving miles of dirt and gravel roads near high-quality streams…and the formation of more than a dozen grassroots conservation groups.

Houston also will be personally honored at the banquet with an induction into the District’s Hall of Honor. The District created the Hall of Honor in 2003 as a way to permanently recognize the men and women who have made significant and long-term contributions to the conservation ethic in Westmoreland County.  Plaques for each inductee are displayed in the District’s offices on Donohoe Road.

The J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award is sponsored by Peoples Natural Gas, the company where Houston worked for many years as marketing manager and whose corporate commitment to employee volunteerism was the catalyst for his introduction to the Westmoreland Conservation District in 1968.

The 2012 Awards Banquet is supported by a number of area businesses and organizations, including lead sponsor Adam Eidemiller, Inc.; and table sponsors Bove Engineering Co.; Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co., Inc.; Lone Maple Agricultural Services/Pritts Feed Mill/Hildenbrand Lime & Fertilizer; The Markosky Engineering Group, Inc.; Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation; and Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation Citizens Advisory Board.  In addition, Kerber’s Dairy of North Huntingdon is donating its premium ice cream for the event.

The public is invited to attend the Westmoreland Conservation District Awards Banquet.  Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online.


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