From Paul Morden, The Sarnia Observer- February 27, 2015
What some call environmentalism, Chad Anderson says is just farming.
Anderson and his wife, Debbie Anderson, have received the Beef Farmers of Ontario’s 2015 Environmental Stewardship Award for the work they’ve done on their St. Clair Township farm.
Some 200 acres of the couple’s 350-acre Mooregrove Farms are in permanent hay and pasture for cattle.
The award, given during the Beef Farmers of Ontario general meeting this month in Toronto, notes the Andersons have increased permanent pasture acres, established a wetland, installed structures and fencing to prevent surface water contamination, have added grassed buffer strips along crop land, and have planted trees as windbreaks.
“We’re just farmers,” Anderson said.
“I wouldn’t say we’re environmentalists, by any stretch.”
And, he added, he doesn’t figure they’re any more environmentally active than others who farm and nurture the land for the generations that follows.
“In our case we’re the fifth,” he said.
“We’re on the original Anderson homestead settled in 1856.”
“So, there’s a lot of work before us and we want to make sure it’s there for the next generation.
“But, that’s just farming.”
Anderson traces the work that led to the award to a move he and his wife made a decade ago to expand their cow herd.
“That led to more seeding down of pasture, planting more grassland, putting up fences, and we planted a bunch of trees,” he said.
“A couple of years ago we seeded down a new farm and there was a wet area there that wasn’t really suitable for grazing cattle.
“I was worried about the young calves getting sick and stuck in the mud.”
Someone with the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority referred the Andersons to Ducks Unlimited, a group that works to promote and preserve wetlands.
That led to the building of a three-quarter-acre wetland, or as Anderson refers to it, a “duck pond,” on the farm. Completed in 2013, it spent the last year charging with water.
“It’s good and full,” Anderson said.
He added he has been told that once ducks begin using the pond, it will naturally stock itself with fish.
“Which will be kind of cool, but I don’t like fishing,” he added.
“I don’t have time for fishing.”
Anderson said he believes it was the pond that caught the attention of their neighbour, Ralph Eyre, president of the Lambton Cattlemen’s Association. That group nominated the Andersons for the provincial award.
Grasslands, like the ones that have developed on the Anderson farm, do a lot for the land, including filtering water, reducing erosion and sequestering carbon.
But, they can also help make life on the farm a little more pleasant.
“The biggest thing I notice, when I’m out with the cows, is all the birds in the summer,” Anderson said.
“I get kind of a kick out of it.”
Along with Mooregrove Farms, he runs a crop consulting business that takes him to farms around the area.
“I’m walking fields all the time, spring through fall, and you don’t see the birds in a corn or soybean field like you do in a grassland area,” he said.
Changing times have left fewer places for birds to live, as land is lost to urban sprawl and larger fields in today’s farm have left fewer fence rows of trees and grass.
“When I was a kid growing up, the farm was a whole bunch of a small fields and now they’re all one big field,” Anderson said.
“We don’t have the fence rows we used to have.”
The Andersons attended the annual meeting to receive the award where they spoke about the work they’ve done on the farm.
In August, the couple will be able to travel to Manitoba with other provincial winners for a national competition.
“That will be cool,” Anderson said. “It’s always nice to get off the farm.”
And, he said they plan to carry on nurturing their farm, including looking at different ways of managing manure.
“We’re going to try and spread less manure on the pasture land, because the cattle are already doing that for us in the summer,” he said.
“We’re going to try and get more out of the resource, and use it in our row crop farms.”
Cattle are the farm’s mainstay, but it also grows grain and oil seeds, and Anderson keeps about 40 hives of bees.
“Part of the reason for the duck pond was a water source for the bees,” he said.