|The Shelmidines, Dylan, Christopher, Todd, Kaitlyn, Donald, Erik, Susan, Jessica, Devon and Doug|
State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine presented the award to Donald, Doug and Todd Shelmidine and their families.
The AEM program aims to boost public awareness of farm efforts in preserving the environment. During the awards presentation, Aubertine said the family's commitment to conservation and the environment extends far behind the farm.
The Jefferson County dairy farms 1,650 acres of alfalfa hay, corn silage, corn for grain, soybeans and small grains – all of it supporting their 775-cow milking herd. Working closely with the Soil and Water Conservation District, Sheland Farms’ conservation and environmental protection measures go above and beyond those required for their concentrated animal feeding operation.
The family has played in key role in putting in place the state's AEM program in the Sandy Creek project. Doug has served on USDA's Agricultural Air Quality Taskforce for 10 years.
"Meeting CAFO requirement has been challenging," he said. "But our SWCD has helped us solve most problems."
The Shelmidines keep all cattle and crops "under cover" – roofs for all dairy animals, plus crop residues and cover crops on their fields. Even Sheland Farms' manure lagoon is covered. It all fits with the farm's commitment to protecting the environment.
A manure solids separator and methane digester were installed in 2007. They began composting manure solids for bedding and generating electricity from methane created in an anaerobic digester.
Close to half of the farmland is no-tilled to minimize soil compaction. The rest is minimum-tilled. Most manure nutrients are spring-applied and incorporated into the soil just ahead of planting or on spread on growing hay ground to maximize nutrient uptake and minimize nutrient losses.
The Shelmidines are active in the New York Farm Bureaus, 4-H, FFA and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association. In 2006, their farm was honored the Rural Entrepreneur of the Year award by the Small business Development Center of the State University of New York.
In 2011, it was chosen as Jefferson County SWCD's Conservation Farm.
Other 2013 finalists for the award were:
* Downing Acres, Burke, Franklin County, is 200-acre mix of hay, grazing and wood lands with a large herd of Katahdin sheep. Owners Elizabeth and Pat Downing were nominated by Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District.
* Heritage Hill Farm of Fort Ann, Washington County, Inez Mattison and family were nominated by Washington County SWCD. Heritage Hill involves 750 acres of cropland plus a 250-cow dairy herd meeting their concentrated animal feeding operation commitment.