New York State Department of Ag & Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball joined the Sand County Foundation in announcing the annual Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM)-Leopold Conservation Award. Table Rock Farm of Castile, along with the Wyoming County Soil & Water Conservation District, has been selected for the distinguished award, which honors a farmer for their extraordinary efforts to protect the environment through the preservation of soil and water quality while ensuring farm viability for future generations.
Table Rock Farm is a family-owned, 1,150-cow dairy farm. The farm produces almost 33 million pounds of milk annually, which is made into Great Lakes cheeses in Cuba, NY. The family also grows 1,800 acres of corn and alfalfa to feed its herd. The family is deeply dedicated to environmental stewardship and uses an innovative manure storage system, crop rotation, conservation tillage and cover crops to promote soil health, prevent erosion and protect water quality.
A special event celebrating Table Rock Farm was attended by the department, Sand County Foundation, award sponsors American Farmland Trust, the Wyoming County S&WCD and other members of the ag community. Table Rock Farm will also be featured in a video that promotes the farm’s award-winning conservation practices.
In 2020, NY’s longstanding AEM Award joined forces with the nationally recognized Leopold Conservation Award program. Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Leopold Conservation Award (LCA) recognizes farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on working land. The award is presented to landowners in 23 states.
Earlier this year, NYS Soil & Water Conservation Districts were encouraged to identify and nominate the best examples of conservation success in their district. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. Among the many outstanding landowners nominated for the award were finalists Greenfield Farms LLC of Skaneateles in Onondaga County and Honorone Farm of Canajoharie in Montgomery County. Last year’s recipient was Sang Lee Farms in Suffolk County.
Ball said, “Congratulations to Meghan Hauser, Maureen De Golyer and the entire Table Rock Farm family for their dedication to agriculture and to their focus on protecting the environment. The family has a long history of implementing practices that help conserve soil health and water quality. Their innovation and pride in their work, as well as their commitment to educating their community, are exemplary of the AEM-Leopold mission.”
Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation president and CEO, said, “Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture. These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”
Meghan Hauser of Table Rock Farm said, “Our entire farm family is grateful for the AEM-Leopold Award. It both recognizes the work we strive to do today and the cumulative efforts of generations of Table Rock team members whose choices formed the core ethics of how we care for cows and how we work the land. We are pleased to be part of farms across New York State making sustainable choices every day to preserve soil health and water resources for future generations.”
Wyoming County S&WCD manager Allen Fagan added, “Table Rock Farms has been, and continues to be, an excellent farm for us to work with at Wyoming County Soil & Water Conservation District. Not only do they seek assistance with potential environmental issues early, but their entire team provides input on the best method to address these concerns. This mindset brings many good ideas to the table and allows our team to work more efficiently with the farm. Table Rock Farms is extremely deserving of this recognition.”
Erica Goodman, AFT NY regional director, said, “It is an honor to recognize Meghan Hauser, Maureen De Golyer and Table Rock Farm’s longstanding commitment to conservation here in New York. Their leadership in improving soil health and resiliency, protecting water quality and addressing climate change has ripples felt across the state and beyond. We are grateful to learn firsthand from Table Rock Farm through their participation in the Genesee River Demonstration Farms Network, a platform for farms to share impacts of conservation with other farmers and the public.”
Sand County Foundation, a national nonprofit conservation organization, presents the $10,000 cash award through the support of AFT, NYS Department of Ag & Markets, Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Ida and Robert Gordon Family Foundation, Farm Credit East, USDA-NRCS and the NYS Agribusiness Association.
For more information on the award, visit leopoldconservationaward.org.
About Table Rock Farm
When it comes to on-farm research, Table Rock Farm is at the head of the class. Its owners and employees have long understood the importance of opening the dairy farm’s barns and fields to researchers. Whether it’s improving conservation, cows or crops, the results have a positive ripple effect throughout agriculture.
At Table Rock Farm, 1,800 acres of corn and alfalfa are grown to feed a herd of 1,150 dairy cows. Crop rotations, conservation tillage and cover crops are utilized to promote soil health and prevent erosion.
Cover crop techniques are the focus of a three-year study that soil health specialists from AFT are conducting at Table Rock Farm. To protect fields from erosion during the winter, a cover crop is planted as corn silage is harvested.
Located just two hours from Cornell University, Table Rock Farm has hosted various studies with the university. Topics ranged from how often to test dry matter in cattle feed, seasonal swings in a cow’s colostrum production and quality and which grasses and seeding rates are best for planting into alfalfa fields.
The farm is best known for the innovative cover and flare system on its manure storage. To protect resources, reduce waste and improve air quality, Table Rock Farm worked with a team of professionals, including NY’s AEM program, to develop an intricate system that separates solids from liquids in cow manure and prevents methane from being released into the atmosphere.
Separated manure solids are treated to reduce bacteria before being recycled into bedding. The clean and comfy product has resulted in better cow health and comfort. The manure system’s cover keeps out rain, reduces odor and allows spreading during optimum weather conditions. The entire project is the subject of a video used statewide to inform farmers, legislators and others about its benefits.
Farm owner Meghan Hauser and her late father, Willard De Golyer, began working with the Wyoming County S&WCD in 2003 to complete the first tiers of the AEM program. To improve water quality, a series of grass waterways and underground outlets have been installed to collect leachate from silage bunkers and divert runoff from the roofs of farm buildings.
Meghan is adept at educating others about agriculture, whether the general public or the farm’s 125 neighboring families. She shares updates on the farm’s Facebook page and at events held for the landowners who rent cropland to Table Rock Farm.
Meghan and Willard were encouraged by one of the farm’s employees to sell the plow and adopt no-till practices 19 years ago. Before Willard passed away one year ago, he took pride in the farm’s enthusiastic, thoughtful team of employees. Each brings an ethic of treating the cows and land right. Meghan and her mother Maureen De Golyer refer to their 35 full- and part-time employees as “a family farm of 35 families.”
Her own family’s roots on the farm run deep. Her great-grandfather was a civil engineer who followed a dream of farming with 10 cows and a flock of sheep. Her grandfather Avery and great-uncle Cal began dairying after World War II. After a barn fire in the 1960s, they built a free-stall barn. Cal remained active on the farm until his death in 2018 at the age of 95. Willard grew the herd’s size in the 1980s and built a modern milking parlor in the 1990s. Today, Meghan is farming with her own children and passing on a land ethic from those who farmed before her.