By Esther M Silvius
DOVER, Ohio-The 71st annual Tuscarawas Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) meeting and banquet was held November 6th in St John's United Church of Christ at Dover.More than 120 members and guests attended the event which commemorated 71 years of good conservation in Tuscarawas County and honored several groups and individuals who have practiced good conservation. Specht Farms LTD of 1370 Ragersville Road, SW, Sugarcreek, was honored as the 2014 Tuscarawas County Conservation Farm of the Year. The farm is currently owned by Tim and Brian Specht, and was started by their grandfather, Gust Specht. It was most recently managed by Tim and Brian's father, Lowell Specht. Tim's sons, Scott and Greg, also help on the farm. Tim's wife, Paula, fed the calves for 23 years and still helps on the farm. Scott handles the nutrition of the cows and mixing the feeds, as well as the farm field work. His wife, Adriann, helps with herd checks and calf registration. Greg, a mechanic, helps part time. The Spechts farm about 1,000 acres, owned and rented, to produce all of their herd's nutrition needs, except for protein. They currently have a milking herd of just over 300 Holstein cows. The Spechts have learned to adapt to the growing conditions in their area, which includes a fair amount of reclaimed strip mined ground. They do well raising hay in those fields, as well as forage sorghum. The sorghum they grow requires about one third the amount of water as corn, which allows it to do well in rockier ground. In recent years, the farm has added some grasses to it's alfalfa stand to increase the digestibility of the hay and reduce weed growth. A mixed stand also allows the farm to apply more manure to the fields without damaging the alfalfa. A list of conservation practices currently in use on the farm include: Cover crops, a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan, Planned Crop Rotations, Contour Srips and an updated Manure Pit. In 2013, the Specht farm was ranked second in the state of Ohio for Holstein cows, according to the Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) of Ohio. Eric Quillin, SWCD Board secretary, presented the 2014 "Friend of Conservation" award to Mary Jane John, to thank her for what she has accomplished and supported for so many years. A friend of conservation is someone who plays a crucial role in the preservation of our natural resources for future generations," he said. Quillin said, "there is no greater friend of conservation than Mary Jane. She supports and is active in the Tuscarawas Soil and Water Conservation District and the SWCD annual meetings, the pork producers, Farm Bureau, Ag in the City and agricultural breakfast. She is a Norma Johnson Center Foundation board member and is present for their programs, such as Fall Fest and Celebrate the Season." Mary Jane and her husband, Charles, have a beef and pork farm at 5738 Angel Valley Road, SW, Stone Creek. The 2014 Educator of the Year award was presented to John Oliver, a Natural Resources teacher at Buckeye Career Center. He and his wife Ruth, and their children live between Dennison and Sherrodsville where he enjoys gardening, fishing, hunting and nature study, Oliver received an associate degree from Hocking College and is currently enrolled at Kent State University. Before coming to Buckeye Career Center, he had served as manager at Camp Muskingum and had taught at Marlington High School and Portage Lakes Career Center. Oliver keeps his students busy by doing various community service projects in the area. He said this allows him to put classroom lessons to use and experience first hand that what he is teaching works, which is always a plus when working with high school students. Marsha Zoller, Norma Johnson Center Director, who presented the award, said "not only does Oliver involve himself with his students, he also volunteers his time. He has helped numerous times at the center, with such events as the fishing derby." "It is a great honor to present you with the 2014 Educator of the Year Award. We commend you for a job well done," Zoller said. Chad Amos from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, conducted the supervisor election. Matt Liggett was re- elected supervisor. The present SWCD Board of Supervisors includes the following: Melvin Lahmers, chairman; Matt Liggett, vice chairman; Bob Demuth, treasurer; Eric Quillin, secretary, and John L.Sigrist, member. The present SWCD staff comprises Tracy Haney, District Program Administer; Julie Gordon, Financial Program Manager; Hans Baltzly, District Technician; Terry Scott, Technical Resource; Marsha Zoller, NJC Director, and Mike Pyle, Maintenance. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel includes Harry Kenney, District Conservationist; Jason Undercoffer, Soil Conservationist; and Eric Downing, Civil Engineering Technician. Guest speaker, Lori Sigrist gave a presentation on a recent trip to Switzerland along with her parents John L. and Linda Sigrist as they experienced it, noting the differences in culture and agriculture. Lori is a recently retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Nutrition Field of the United States Army. Her father has been a SWCD Board supervisor for 17 years. The welcome and introductions were handled by County Commissioner Chris Abbuhl, and Mary Jane John asked the invocation for the dinner.