by Troy Bishopp

Wendell Berry wrote, “The earth is what we all have in common.” This commonality brought together farmers, contractors, conservation professionals and policymakers for a holiday pause of appreciation and reflection of accomplishment toward applying conservation practices on the land.

For the 11th year, the Madison County Soil & Water Conservation District and its Board of Directors held their annual customer appreciation luncheon in Hamilton, NY. With 50 guests in attendance, the casual get-together serves to appreciate the family of conservation stewards and partners who help the district fulfill its mission to promote voluntary, economically viable and environmentally conscience agriculture through continual implementation of their locally-led Agricultural Environmental Management Program (AEM).

Madison SWCD hosts Appreciation Luncheon

(L – R) Madison County SWCD Board of Directors: James Cunningham, Ronald Bono, Cedric Barnes III, Alan Hough and Chair Douglas Holdridge. Photo by Troy Bishopp

“It’s a small gesture of thanks to our local family farmers, local contractors, town supervisors, county employees, elected officials, agri-business companies, engineering support, state and federal conservation partners and funding organizations,” said District Manager Steve Lorraine. “Conservation practices don’t just happen in a vacuum. It takes many hands.”

The effort put forth was anything but commonplace because of the construction material challenges during the pandemic. During a slideshow presentation, Lorraine highlighted a diversity of 2020 and 2021 projects that he and his staff of nine worked on using the NYS AEM program planning matrix. These plans led to funding opportunities, design and construction of grade stabilization projects, municipal culvert projects, stream remediation, manure storage projects, pasture systems, laneways, spring developments, milkhouse waste systems, heavy use areas, riparian buffers and planting over a 780 acres of cover crops locally.

“A special thanks to the Madison County Board of Supervisors for continuing to fund the Flood Mitigation Program. It assists municipalities and landowners with the financial resources to implement designs that the district has completed to repair and upgrade infrastructure, capable of handling the severe storm events we have been experiencing recently,” Lorraine said.

Additionally, the district staff managed the construction projects, planted trees, installed fence on stream buffers, consulted on grazing management, developed and applied nutrient management plans, took soil samples, delineated watersheds for culvert sizing, secured stream and lake permits, led educational training events and held the popular annual tree sale. The staff also worked with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition and NYS DEC to formulate the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL strategy as well as extensive grant writing.

The afternoon was marked by the retirements of long-time Conservation District Board Member and Town of Madison Supervisor Ron Bono and SWCD Conservation Technician Jerry Boyd. Guests U.S. Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R, NY-22) and NYS Assemblyman John Salka (R,C,I,-Ref-Brookfield, 121) were also in attendance to learn about local conservation projects implemented and to answer questions from the agricultural community.

To learn more about the work the Madison County SWCD does for the community, contact the district at 315.824.9849 or visit