It was a chilly autumn afternoon at beautiful Edgewood Farm, the home of Steve and Bonnie Darcey. Steve is a conservation engineer with the
George’s Soil Conservation District and Bonnie is an
accomplished show hunter equestrienne.
Our group of about 20 gathered in the indoor arena. Jane Thery, Chair of the MHC Farm Stewardship Committee, opened the meeting with thanks for the Darceys for hosting the meeting and a round of introductions of those present. The group ranged from farm management experts to those looking for information on the latest environmentally-sound horse farm management ideas.
Steve Darcey began his farm tour with thanks to the event sponsors, Colonial Farm Credit and the
George’s Soil Conservation District. The group clambered up onto his hay wagon for
the tour. The first stop was to see a
drainage system and row of warm-weather grasses. The drainage system included an underground
pipe, plantings to hold the soil and rubble to protect from erosion. As Darcey said, the point of the system is to
“wear out the water” by running it around until is slowed way down. This is an essential element of keeping
sediment and nutrients out to the Chesapeake Bay
watershed. The grasses are planted to
improve wildlife habitat and hold the soil.
Both of these farm improvements received significant funding from state
and local programs. The second stop was
at the composting area. Darcey composts
the manure and bedding from his own horse operation and hauls in horse manure
from about ten nearby farms. The compost
is turned regularly, situated well away from water courses and is sold in bulk,
primarily as potting soil.
On returning to the indoor, Gerald Talbert, Project Leader of the Maryland Farm Stewardship, Certification and Assessment Program (FSCAP) explained the process of farm certification which includes having a nutrient management plan, a conservation plan and meeting all state and county requirement for nutrient management. He noted that both the farm community and the environmental community support the program. To date, there are four certified horse farms with several others in the process of assessment.
Eileen Beard, the Maryland Department of Agriculture Equine Specialist, explained that she and her colleagues at the Soil Conservation District offices are ready to help horse farms review their farm stewardship needs, provide technical assistance at no cost and identify state and federal sources of financing.
Jane Seigler, Vice President of the Maryland Horse Council, gave an update on the
nutrient management regulations, noting that input from the horse community did
make the final regulations more user-friendly to horse farms. The regulations include setbacks to keep livestock and
manure spreading away from streams, keeping manure stacks away from
waterways and limiting winter manure spreading.
Amy Burk, Maryland Horse Council Farm Stewardship Committee Vice Chair and University of Maryland Equine Specialist, provided information on the university pasture management project and the fact sheets produced by the Maryland Department of Agriculture Horse Outreach Workshop (HOW) on topics ranging from composting to horse health.
Information on the winter meeting of the MHC Farm Stewardship Committee meeting will be forthcoming. Any questions? Contact Jane Thery, Committee Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org