Westmoreland Conservation District Presents Conservation Awards

The Westmoreland Conservation District Wednesday presented two awards for outstanding conservation service and inducted a former District director posthumously into its Hall of Honor.

Receiving awards are: David and Barbara McMillan – Farmer of the Year; Adam Eidemiller, Inc. – J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award sponsored by Peoples Natural Gas; and Dorothy Stoner is being inducted into the Hall of Honor.

-- 2014 Conservation Farmers of the Year David and Barbara McMillan: The McMillans are being recognized for their use of best practices in small-scale agricultural conservation.  Having outgrown their former homestead, they purchased a 95-acre property in Donegal Township ten years ago and entered the world of agricultural conservation -- a world they’ve embraced with great passion and dedication, incorporating a variety of conservation measures on their farm.

The McMillans have lined the banks of Champion Creek on their property with native trees and shrubs, protecting the creek from sediment and keeping the water cool for macro invertebrates…built two stabilized places for crossing the stream with farm equipment and horses without creating erosion…selectively cleared poor-quality trees from 35 acres of their 65-acre forest …installed waterbars to reduce erosion on old logging roads…and established three-season flower beds to encourage pollinators and warm-season grass habitats for pheasants and other wildlife.

They’ve even applied conservation principles in the construction and running of their 18th-century hand-hewn log home, with inspiration drawn from the District’s barn and GreenForge demonstration site.

Much like our barn, the McMillans’ log cabin home features many re-purposed building materials such as slate from a former school and chestnut beams from a 200-year old barn, wood paneling from trees downed during a tornado, solar power in their agricultural buildings, and geothermal heating in their home.  Their kitchen garden is built on a shale slope where they get things to grow by using “planting pockets” patterned after the planting wall at GreenForge.

The McMillans hope to inspire ordinary folks like themselves to also incorporate small-scale conservation practices, living by the principle that “nothing goes to waste; everything is recycled, re-purposed, or re-integrated into the natural environment.”

-- 2014 J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award Adam Eidemiller, Inc.: Over the past 90 years, Adam Eidemiller, Inc. has been a major force in large-scale regional projects that involve moving earth and managing stormwater – from farming to coal mining; highway construction to commercial and residential development. 

Among other projects, Adam Eidemiller, Inc. developed Westmoreland Mall and built substantial sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

And through it all, this family-owned company has been a model conservation partner, embracing the conservation ethic, following best management practices such as sediment ponds to control erosion on its work sites and incorporating state-of-the-art measures such as rain gardens to manage stormwater.

In addition to all that Adam Eidemiller, Inc. has done for the conservation of our natural resources on its own projects, the company also has partnered directly with the District to put conservation projects on the ground throughout our county, such as the conversion of an unused tennis court at Valley High School into an infiltration parking lot along Little Pucketa Creek in New Kensington.

They also have been generously supportive of the District’s operations and needs, providing in-kind services during the construction of the J. Roy Houston Conservation Center (all the excavation work and access to heavy equipment), during the expansion of our campus (excavation and stone for the link to the Public Works building), and during the rehabilitation of Green Forge (excavation work and providing asphalt and paving).

The company also has been a major sponsor of our banquet and of our Envirothon competition, and has advertised in our Landmarks newsletter/magazine since 1990.

The J. Roy Houston Partnership Award is sponsored by Peoples Natural Gas Company.

-- Hall of Honor Dorothy Stoner Conservation and Dairy Farming Advocate: Dorothy Stoner was a passionate advocate for conservation and dairy farming.

For upwards of 50 years, Dorothy and her husband Richard ran a model 260-acre dairy farm in Unity Township where they incorporated state-of-the-art conservation measures and best management practices to keep their cows healthy and the surrounding land and water – including the headwaters of Sewickley Creek – clean. 

The depth of their commitment to conservation led the District to name them Conservation Farmer of the Year in 2001.

Dorothy wanted more than anything to keep area dairy farming viable.  She saw conservation as one way to do that and so she promoted the value of these practices to other farmers.

She also took her message to legislators and government officials, advocating through the boards she served on, including the Farm Service Agency and the Westmoreland Conservation District (director, 1995-2006; associate director, 2009-2011), that farmers should receive the same supports available to other small businesses.

And she planned for the future.  Over the years, she hosted hundreds of elementary school students at her farm, where they discovered that milk comes from cows, not the supermarket, what life is like on a dairy farm, and the joys of choosing agriculture as a profession.

Dorothy gained broad support for her message because she spoke with passion, and with the authority of experience.  It also didn’t hurt that her delivery included her characteristic broad smile, gentle tone, and more often than not, a few of the just-out-of-the-oven sweets she loved to bake.

Dorothy was a valuable voice of reason that helped our District lay solid foundations in a number of areas, including the development of our conservation education program and the creation of the District’s first-ever employee handbook. 

Dorothy also contributed ideas and support for our yearly banquet, pitching in to help with everything from addressing invitations to curing up a batch of her delicious homemade sauerkraut large enough to feed the 200 people at the event.


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