Martin Young pointed to the water running off the silage across the cement and into a square catch-basin, where it went down the drain through the pipes and eventually ended up in 4 million gallon manure management system.
That manure is used on the crop fields.
“It has a high nutrient content spread,” Young said.
Young and his wife, Mary Ann, are the fourth generation owners and operators of Whey Street Dairy in Cuyler, which was honored this week by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets in Seneca Falls at the state Empire Days.
The Young family received the 2019 State Agricultural Environmental Management Award for their 20 years of soil and conservation efforts.
“Each year, the award honors a New York State farm and a nominating soil and water district for their collective efforts to protect the environment through the preservation of soil and water quality and to ensure the farm’s viability for generations to follow,” said a news release from the department.
“We strive to implement best practices that will lead to healthy soil, productive farms and clean water and we thank the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District, which is instrumental in the implementation of conservation practices that have improved our farm,” Young said in the release.
Young is one of three farms in the county to be presented with the award. Kathy Arnold of Twin Oaks Dairy Farm in Truxton won in 2006 and Mike McMahon of McMahon’s EZ Acres Farm in Homer won in 2015, which was also recognized nationally in 2018.
Some of the other conservation efforts the Young family has done includes adding trees near a section of the Tioughnioga River that runs through their 1,800-acre, 700-cow farm. Those trees help with erosion and runoff. It also helps wildlife thrive in the area.
“The shade is better for the trout,” Young said, noting it keeps the water in the river cooler.
Young also controls storm water runoff with help from gravity and Mother Nature. As the water runs off the hills of his farm and down to the grass fields below, it is caught in a catch-basin that then feeds the water to the surrounding grass.
All of the work on the farm didn’t just happen overnight; it’s been in process for two decades after Young was told by the Department of Environmental Conservation that using conservation techniques would be good if he was going to have a confined animal feeding operation, an area where all the cows are housed and fed.
So he started, with the help of the county Soil and Water Conservation District, implementing the practices. But it hasn’t come easily.
“It’s a bit of trial and error,” Mary Ann Young said.
“It’s a lifetime commitment to being a steward of the land,” Martin Young added.