The Westmoreland Conservation District (CD) in Westmoreland County, Pa., has been recognizing outstanding conservation farmers since 1953 with its annual “Conservation Farmer of the Year” Award.
Each year, the CD’s Board of Directors votes to choose the awardee based on recommendations provided by the district’s agricultural specialist. The award recognizes a farmer’s outstanding application and use of conservation best management practices promoted by the district’s programs and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). These farmers often go above and beyond this criteria and serve as dynamic advocates for sound conservation practices benefitting soil, water, the economy, quality of life and the future.
The 2020 award was given to the Frye Family of Unity Township. Uniquely, they are one of only three farmers within the district who have been recognized with this award twice, first in 1983, and now, in 2020. The Fryes are dairy farmers with a family farming heritage in Westmoreland County that goes back to 1795. On their 180-acre dairy farm, the Frye Family implements conservation best management practices, including contour strips, diversions, riparian buffers, stream crossings and stabilized heavy use areas for dairy cattle, as well as specialized farm building gutter systems to control roof runoff.
Ralph Frye, Jr., and his wife Anne manage the farm with their sons Jason, Todd and Chad and their families. The Fryes have recently ventured into value-added cheesemaking to help make their farm more viable in the future. Their artisan cheesemaking operation is very unique for the region and is described by Jason Frye in the award video.
In conjunction with the cheese-making, the Fryes are building a robotic milking parlor and introducing many forward-thinking farming elements. Their facility also has an educational aspect to it with a classroom and observation areas. In addition, the Fryes coordinate with other local farmers and area retailers to help promote and sustain local producers.
“Our overall slogan for all of the Westmoreland CD programs is ‘helping people use resources wisely,'” said Mark Jackson, Westmoreland CD’s visual communications specialist. “Our district’s relationship with the Frye Family is a fine example of that.”
To learn more about the Fryes, view the award video at Westmoreland CD’s YouTube channel.