Westmoreland Conservation District Presents Outstanding Conservation Service Awards Sept. 13

The Westmoreland County Conservation District will present two awards for outstanding conservation service – the Conservation Farmer of the Year Award to Jamison Farm in Unity Township, and the J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award to Bove Engineering -- on September 13 at an open house reception, which runs from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at the District’s location at 218 Donohoe Road in Greensburg.

2017 Conservation Farmers of the Year - Jamison Farm

When Sukey Jamison bought sheep for her children’s 4-H project in the late 1970s, little did she know that that decision would ultimately lead to her family becoming one of the country’s most-sought-after purveyors of lamb -- and one of Westmoreland County’s most outstanding conservationists.

“I was a complete novice,” Sukey said of her lack of knowledge of raising sheep at the time of the decision some 40 years ago; and, in fact, neither she nor her husband John had any farming experience at all before they bought a stone house that “came with 65 acres” near Pleasant Unity just a few years prior.

But the Jamisons obviously were good studies, because today their current farm, a 212-acre property in Unity Township, processes some 3,000 lambs each year, and of a such quality that they are sought by some of the finest chefs and restaurants in America.

The Jamisons attribute much of the quality of their product to the quality of the grass that grows here in southwestern Pennsylvania.  

“We had to lime when we first moved here, but not very often since,” John said, noting that the clover in the pastures fixes nitrogen, which in turn prompts the grass to grow.  Local rainfall – averaging 40 to 45 inches a year – promotes grass growth too and allows three to five hay cuttings a year.

With grass their only crop for some four decades, and with an extensive grid of fencing that allows them to keep the sheep in any of 20 paddocks and away from the stream, the Jamison farm may produce the least sedimentation of any working farm of its size in the county.  There is so little erosion and such good grass on their property that the Jamisons were recently able to use an animal runway as a paddock.

John uses a computer program to keep track of where and when he moves the flock in an intensive rotational grazing system that dates back to 1978, created with the help of several local conservation agencies. 

Today, the expanded system uses more than 28,000 feet of high-tensile fence, and more than 8,000 feet of waterline that carries drinking water for the animals from a holding tank in the barn to most of the paddocks, traveling some 5,000 feet to the farthest point. Three paddocks are fed by spring developments and one well is dedicated to the troughs.

The Jamisons have a Natural Resources Conservation Service Grazing Plan, a Conservation Plan, and are updating the Manure Management Plan for their farm, which is preserved through the Westmoreland County Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

2017 J. Roy Houston Conservation Partnership Award - Bove Engineering

Just shy of 50 years ago, Michael Bove, an ambitious young Italian immigrant who took evening classes to earn licenses in both engineering and surveying, founded a company -- Bove Engineering – that would become one of the best-known engineering firms in western Pennsylvania, building a reputation for quality and a commitment to conservation along the way.

Today, Michael, now in his 80s, still comes to the office most days and serves as the company president. 

Sons Lucien and Emil, who recall going out on jobs with their dad ever since they could “pick up a hammer and stakes,” shoulder much of the firm’s day-to-day demands, which are significant, considering the firm serves as the municipal engineer for 10 different Westmoreland County communities, including Vandergrift, New Stanton, Irwin, and New Alexandria, and as the sewage enforcement officer for 12 different Westmoreland County communities.

As municipal engineers, the Boves are in a unique position to promote effective conservation practices and to help put them in place in the communities they serve.

Over the years, Bove Engineering has helped to implement a number of important conservation practices, including helping to get stormwater controls on projects and developments as far back as the 1980s in Hempfield Township, before most municipalities were even thinking about managing runoff. 

In fact, Bove Engineering helped create one of the first stormwater management ponds in Hempfield Township and one of the first Stormtech Infiltration Systems in Westmoreland County.

That early work in Hempfield demonstrated the benefits of stormwater management and served as a model for other local communities to follow. 

In the 30 years that Bove served as Hempfield’s municipal engineer, the township developed extensively, and along with the shopping centers and roads, put some 200 stormwater ponds or underground tanks in place to capture the runoff from all those new, impervious surfaces.

More recently, Bove Engineering played a lead role in a major effort by the historic borough of Vandergrift to separate its sewage and stormwater systems.  One of the largest projects of its type in the county, the $11 million effort is resulting in significantly fewer sewage overflows into the Kiskiminetas River.

Over five decades, as elected officials changed, Bove Engineering has been a constant in many Westmoreland County communities. 

As such, they help newly elected community managers understand the benefits of conservation practices, encourage Conservation Partnership Agreements between municipalities and the District, help to shape and enforce local ordinances, and see that conservation measures are incorporated in the ongoing variety of municipal infrastructure projects – from streets and sidewalks to water and sewer systems.

Both Lucien and Emil serve as advisors on the District’s Technical Programs Committee, offering professional expertise to help develop and sustain the District’s erosion control and stormwater management programs.   Emil also serves the District as an associate director.

As the next generation of Boves train in civil engineering, drafting, and accounting, prospects are good that Bove Engineering will continue to be a major force for both quality municipal projects and conservation in Westmoreland County.       

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

J. Roy Houston 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

-- The Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation – 2015

-- Larry Larese – 2016

-- Bove Engineering -- 2017 (to be awarded on September 13).

For more information programs, assistance and other upcoming events, visit the Westmoreland County Conservation District website.


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[Posted: Sept. 7, 2017]


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