Left to Right. NYBPA President Phil Trowbridge, Phil & Dawn Keppler, NYBC Executive Director Jean O’Toole, and Dave Schubel
At the New York Beef Producers’ Association 2020 Annual Winter Conference SK Herefords, LLC. located in Medina was presented with the Environmental Stewardship Award.
This award was established to recognize the outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements of a New York beef producer. The winner of this award is commended for their commitment to protecting the environment and improving fish and wildlife habitats while operating profitable cattle operations and will be nominated for regional recognition through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
SK Herefords is a family cattle operation which includes a long-standing partnership between Dave Schubel, Dawn & Phil Keppler, and Alana Welker and family. The operation consists of approximately 1200 acres of pasture, row crops, and woodland. Calving nearly 250 females every spring.
SK Herefords produces feed for their cattle on their farm, growing acres of corn hay and pasture. The corn is harvested for grain or chopped for silage for the cows to eat during the winter. As big believers in planting cover crops and following no till practices for almost 4 decades, SK Herefords covers their corn fields in cereal rye after harvesting. “It really helps cut down on erosion and improve the health of our soil,” Phil said.
SK Herefords has passionately worked to develop the wildlife on their farm. Woodlot management techniques are implemented to optimize forest health, productivity, and protective habitat. Fostering healthy pasture and crop land is important to them, as is providing natural habitat for birds. In fact, each year hay harvest is delayed allowing grass nesting songbirds to fledge out. A parcel of hay ground is left unharvested each year to provide a protected habitat for the birds. The farm is located within the Atlantic flyway. Fostering habitats for the birds, this flyway means that a visit to the farm can provide opportunity to see dozens of different species of birds throughout the year during migration seasons.
In addition, the Oak Orchard Creek, part of the Great Lakes Ontario Watershed, runs through the farm. Buffer zones have been implemented to protect the water from runoff and cattle have been fenced out of the creek. These management practices are essential in assuring the quality of the water which feeds into a world class Trout Fishery, a popular recreation area for brown and rainbow trout.
Implementing new practices and approaches on the farm is an important cornerstone of the farm philosophy at SK Herefords. When asked what Phil’s view on the future of agriculture was and how creativity plays into it, he shared, “Creativity is desperately needed in agriculture, let’s focus on solutions, let’s get creative, that’s what makes things work. Creativity helps you look at things not as being a problem, but helps you find the solution and that’s the exciting thing. Creativity gives you hope and that is the most important thing in life-hope.”
The common trait among all Environmental Stewardship Award winners is the desire to leave the land in better shape for future generations while also inspiring the next generation of land stewards. SK Herefords LLC. exemplifies these traits. The New York Beef Council and New York Beef Producers’ Association are thrilled to honor this exemplary farm.