Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Farm Tours On Aug. 2, 4 To Showcase CREP Conservation Practices In Westmoreland

Two afternoon tours on August 2 and 4 will travel to Westmoreland County farms to see conservation practices that have been installed under one of the many programs available to area farmers-- the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).
The first tour, on August 2 from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., will feature Friendship Farms in Mount Pleasant Township.  The Costello family, owners of this unique 370-acre farm since the late 1960s, raise cows, free-range chickens, and native plants.
Friendship Farms participates in CREP with both vegetated stream buffers and a riparian wooded buffer.
Friendship Farms also has a native plant nursery and, over the years, the Costellos have developed expertise in providing conservation contracting services, such as installing CREP practices, for private landowners as well as for public places including the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve in Latrobe and the Gettysburg battlefields.
A bonus on this tour is the chance to visit the on-site farm market, which features fresh breads, preserves, and grass-fed beef.
The second tour, on August 4 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., will visit three family farms in New Alexandria and a 500-acre beef-cattle and cropping farm near Crabtree that feature a very wide variety of CREP conservation practices.
On these farms, participants will see vegetated stream buffers, cool and warm season grasses on steep croplands, contour buffer strips, grassed waterways, field borders, and the longest riparian buffer in Westmoreland County – stretching for about one and a half miles – with stream crossings.
The August 4 tour is suitable for those with limited mobility, as most CREP conservation practices can be seen from the bus.
Both tours are open to the public and will offer participants the opportunity to talk with the local farm owners as well as with representatives from the Westmoreland Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Farm Service Agency.  
Individuals can register for one or both tours.
Tours will begin at and return to the Westmoreland Conservation District, 218 Donohoe Road, Greensburg, and will be held, rain or shine.  There is a nominal fee to participate and space is limited.
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program started in western Pennsylvania in 2004.  Under CREP, landowners voluntarily agree to install conservation measures and to remove land that is highly environmentally sensitive, such as streambanks and steep cropland, from agricultural production for a certain period of time.
This is the basis for the slogan: “Farm the best, and CREP the rest.”
Benefits of the program include improved water quality, improved animal health, and a reimbursement for the farmer of costs on most conservation practices installed, as well as a yearly rental payment on land enrolled in the CREP program.
The CREP tours are underwritten by the CREP Outreach Program Office Mini-Grant Program.  
Financial and other support for the CREP Outreach Program Office Mini-grant Program is provided by the PA Association of Conservation Districts, Inc. through a Growing Greener Watershed Protection grant from the Department of Environmental Protection and with additional support from USDA-NRCS.
To participate, complete and return the reservation form and submit it so it is received by July 27.  Visit the Westmoreland County Conservation District Calendar of Events for more details.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the District (right panel, bottom).
For more information on the program, visit the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program website.

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