Jon and Sylvia BednarskiLa Grange, KY

leopold-conservation-award-2013Jon and Sylvia Bednarski

Sherwood Acres

Oldham County Conservation District

Jon and Sylvia Bednarski opened Sherwood Acres in 2000 with virtually no farming experience. Jon, who has spent over 35 years in sales and marketing, started the business to supply naturally-raised beef to the local food movement in Louisville, Kentucky. The couple enlisted the assistance of the Oldham County Conservation District and the local Cooperative Extension from the beginning to preserve and protect the land.

The Bednarskis use animal welfare standards and best management practices (BMPs) in their grass-fed beef operation. Because the couple’s farm spans a portion of the Harrods Creek headwaters – a tributary that flows to the Ohio River and serves as the Louisville metro area’s water source –  they use BMPs to protect the soils from erosion and have planted over 400 trees in riparian buffers to protect the creek bank. “Our cattle are fenced out of the creek, pond and wooded areas, to protect the environment,” Jon said. “Wasted hay and manure from our feed pads are composted and returned to our pastures. Reseeding our sacrifice pastures helps maintain good forage cover for grazing and reducing erosion.”

When Jon and Sylvia Bednarski first purchased 50 acres of neglected and overgrown land northeast of Louisville, Kentucky, their mindset was to preserve and protect the land’s natural resources. They started by clearing the land of invasive trees and vines and soon had transformed the property into a profitable, “naturally-raised beef,” cattle operation called “Sherwood Acres” where they raise Belted Galloway cattle, or “Belties” for short, today.

By using BMPs and frequently repairing slopes to reduce sediment runoff, Jon is able to control the impact his cattle have around feeding areas, waterers, and gate openings. During the winter, his cattle are not standing in mud, but instead on feed pads, which reduces hoof problems and promotes weight gain.

Today, Sherwood Acres has grown to over 100 acres. The Bednarskis sold a second farm in neighboring Henry County in 2016 and also purchased a third farm in Mercer County, which has over 1,500 feet of Herrington Lake frontage. Their land is now teeming with wild turkeys, songbirds, and white-tailed deer – proof of how the land has healed with the use of conservation practices.

The couple has encountered some challenges using these practices, however. “I grew up in the Northeast where winter and frozen ground came in December and often lasted through April,” Jon said. “On our beef cattle farm in Kentucky, the freezing and thawing of the ground often occurs weekly; and extensive winter rain and snow challenge our ability to protect our soils.”

By implementing BMPs, we not only save our soils and maintain high standards of animal welfare, but we add money to our bottom line, Jon added.

Their dedication to conservation has won the couple several awards over the years. In 2011, the couple was named the Oldham County Master Conservationist of the Year; in 2012, Kentucky’s Master Conservationist of the Year; in 2013, the inaugural winner of the Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award; and in 2014, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Environmental Stewardship Award for Region I (an area that includes 17 states).

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