Westmoreland Conservation District Presents Awards Sept. 9
The Westmoreland Conservation District presented two awards for outstanding conservation service at a ceremony on September 9, at an open-house-type reception, which runs from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the District’s location on Donohoe Road.
Receiving awards are: Mike and Ina Bazley – Conservation Farmer of the Year; and Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation. – J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award sponsored by Peoples Natural Gas.
2015 Conservation Farmers of the Year
Mike and Ina Bazley have been familiar faces at area farmers markets for more than 22 years, but the products for sale on their table have never stayed the same.
“We’ve always kept it fresh and interesting, and raised just about everything you can raise, from honey to hogs,” Mike said, “and we’ve really enjoyed it.”
Through all the decades and all the creative agricultural ways they have used their 53 acres in Derry Township, the Bazleys have been good conservation stewards. They have installed measures to reduce erosion, encourage pollinators, limit sediment pollution, and improve pastures.
The conservation measures they installed have benefitted their agribusiness – two high tunnel structures extend their growing season and produce highly desirable crops, including lush, uniform heirloom tomatoes and no-spray raspberries that store as long as seven days.
The Bazleys’ conservation measures also benefit the community. The two stabilized stream crossings and the pollinator-plant-rich buffers they created on both sides of the stream that flows through their farm, for instance, help to improve water quality in McGee Run, a stream and watershed that is the current focus of a major conservation effort.
In the early days of their farming, the Bazleys focused their efforts solely on vegetable production, raising non-typical for-market crops that Mike had identified in his studies the previous winter as being in-demand – yellow watermelon, Pattypan squash and the then-rare but now-everywhere kale.
Today, Mike and Ina continue to raise vegetables (look for microgreens and baby vegetables at next year’s farmers market), but the Bazleys’ emphasis is more on animals, including cattle, sheep, and Mike’s number one agricultural passion, poultry.
The Bazleys raise chickens as well as grass-fed Texas Longhorn cattle and lambs. They use two separate rotational grazing systems with a total of seven paddocks.
They installed a spring development and a watering system for the animals and an animal walkway system to protect steep areas of their farm from erosion.
“We’ve learned from and worked with Mother Nature and Father Time over the years, and gotten a lot of help from the conservation folks,” Mike said.
2015 J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award
Katherine Mabis McKenna was an accomplished woman. As a young woman, she studied painting at the renowned Cape Cod School of Art, studied abroad for a year, and then graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1918. Her passion for the natural world led her to study horticulture in the Netherlands, Ikebana style of flower arranging during several trips to Japan, and landscape design at the then-Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women.
At her home and at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center, she created “educational landscapes,” where visitors could not only enjoy the aesthetic qualities of the plantings but also learn about their characteristics and care.
In her later years, she did much to enhance the quality of life in our region, and created a foundation in memory of her son, Mennel, to continue that work.
The Westmoreland Conservation District has been fortunate to be the recipient of support from her legacy, the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, for more than 20 years.
The foundation has always encouraged collaboration, and been a lead supporter in co-locating like-minded conservation agencies first in Donohoe Center (in 1994) and then, as they grew, on the expanded conservation campus (1998, 2007, and 2014).
In 1995, the foundation helped the District expand and revitalize Ann Rudd Saxman Nature Park in Hempfield Township.
The following year, the foundation helped to create the Monastery Run Improvement Project, bringing together a coalition of agencies to pioneer the use of passive wetlands to treat a stream degraded with pollution from abandoned coal mines.
And for many years, the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation has helped to support regional trail development and created one of the longest – and best – trails in the United States, the Great Allegheny Passage.
The Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation is led by Chairman Linda McKenna Boxx, Vice Chairman Zan McKenna Rich, and Treasurer Nathan McKenna Boxx.
The J. Roy Houston Partnership Award is sponsored by Peoples Natural Gas Company. Roy was the volunteer chairman of the Westmoreland Conservation District for 40 years – the longest volunteer commitment in the District’s history. Roy worked for many years as marketing manager at Peoples Gas and it was that company’s commitment to employee volunteerism that introduced Roy to the Westmoreland Conservation District in 1968.
The J. Roy Houston Partnership Award was established in 2011 and has been given to: The Westmoreland County Commissioners, past and present – 2012; Jacobs Creek Watershed Association -- 2013; Adam Eidemiller, Inc. -- 2014; and The Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation – 2015.
The Westmoreland Conservation District helps people use resources wisely.
The organization was established in 1949, when local farmers, seeking help to conserve their soil and water resources, approached the County Commissioners.
As the county has grown and changed in the 66 years since then, the District has responded with new programs to help ensure minimal negative impact on all aspects of the county’s natural wealth – its soils, forests, streams, and open space – as well as its valuable, productive farmland. In addition to its science-based efforts, the District serves as a clearinghouse for conservation information.
The District is located in a restored 1880s-era barn now located at 218 Donohoe Road, Greensburg.
For more information on programs and activities, visit the Westmoreland County Conservation District website.
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