HISTORY of the River-Friendly Farmer Award

Since 1999, key conservation and agricultural organizations have sponsored the River Friendly Farmer (RFF) Program. The statewide initiative recognizes farmers, who through good production management practices helps keep Indiana’s rivers, lakes and streams clean.

Annually, each county Soil and Water Conservation District may nominate up to two farmers who do an outstanding job of protecting their rivers, lakes and streams through their every day conservation management practices on the farm. Watershed organizations also may nominate farmers for the award by submitting an application to a county SWCD.

2021 River Friendly Farmer Award recipients:

David & Lynette Bluhm
Adams – D & L Bluhm Farms Inc. is located in the St. Mary’s & Upper Wabash Watersheds where they produce corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs. Conservation practices are important to them as they want to protect the healthy soil that they have spent years building. They use a multi-biodiverse mix of cover crops on their ground along with interseeding. This family farm keeps mindful of any runoff and conducts grid soil testing every four years along with a nutrient management plan.
In their wooded areas, they work with a certified timber forest manager to harvest specific trees at specific times. 
Kyle & Kerry KauffmanAdams – Kerry and Kyle Kauffman are a father/son team that produce corn and soybeans in the St. Mary’s Watershed.  Kerry is the 4th generation farmer in their family.  They use conservation practices of No-Till, Cover Crops, Nutrient Management, Soil Testing and filter strips. No-till and Cover crops have increased the income in their operation by building their soil health and decreasing erosion. The bonus, they say, is that these practices also protect ditches and streams.
Rustin and Jana SindersClay – Pearson Harbaugh, the great-grandfather of these recipients, named the farm “Clear View Farm” when he purchased the land in 1904. Just as the name indicates, Clear View Farm has seen the impact of cleaner, clearer water leaving their farm. Less sediment, less loss of nutrients and less chemical runoff have become the result of no-tilling since 2002 and cover crop usage over the last 10 years. This year they plan to use cover crops on all of their land. They use a 12-way cover mix that not only keeps the soil in place, but is also beneficial for pollinators. The Sinders’ goal is to move beyond sustainability to regenerative practices.
Jay and Sue HawleyClinton – In the Sugar Creek watershed, Jay and Sue Hawley’s farm produces corn and soybeans where they have implemented cover crops, no-till,  nutrient management, precisions planting, filter strips, grassed waterways, and tree planting. They care deeply about the land and want to preserve it well. Livestock barns were removed and wildlife habitat was planted in their place. Jay’s father, Charles Hawley, was a founding member of the Clinton County Soil and Water Conservation District and served as a supervisor.
Alan KeithDaviess – Alan Keith operates a grain farm that produces corn and soybeans in the Lower White Watershed. On the majority of his land, Alan uses a no-tillage cropping system combined with overwintering cover crops, variable rate nutrient applications and split nitrogen fertilizer applications. These conservation practices are vital to his farming operation and have slowed the velocity of surface water and reduced soil erosion. The increased ground cover, via cover crops and grassed waterways, has provided cover for wildlife habitat and filtered water that does run off.  
Clay CutterDearborn – Cutter Farm has been passed down three generations and been in the family for nearly 90 years. They no-till and rotational graze their beef cattle. By implementing alternative watering systems, they have eliminated the need for cattle in waterbodies. Cutter Farm has also installed Heavy Use Area Protection which has prevented erosion and runoff and improved livestock health and safety.
Matt & Mark Jeffries   Dearborn – Jeffries Farms has been a part of this family for over 150 years. It produces soybeans, corn, wheat and 40 head of cattle. Their conservation practices include no-till, cover crops, precision soil testing, precision chemical applications, manure management, grassed waterways, livestock exclusion and rotational grazing. They also maintain a woodland for wildlife habitat. These practices have improved the soil health on their farm with less erosion and runoff. Other benefits include an increase in water quality around the farm and an increase in overall production and their bottom line with less time in the fields. 
Larry NiemanDecatur – Larry & Sandy Nieman took over the family farm in 1981 and have a hog production where they also produce corn and soybeans in the Sand Creek watershed. They have implemented waterways, filter strips, and reduced tillage on their land. They have experienced a decrease in sedimentation and runoff and have, therefore, improved the soil health on their farm. The filter strips and the management of invasive species has provided wildlife habitat in their woods.
Austin ShroyerDelaware – Shroyer Farms is located in the Missinewa, Upper White watershed. Conservation practices on their land have allowed them to use less inputs and have increased the water infiltration and earthworms on their tight clay soils. They complete grid soil sampling and only apply fertilizer where it is needed. The Shroyer’s have experienced increased profits, as a result of better soil structure and organic matter improvements. 
Mark and Nancy WelpDubois – Welp Farms produces grain and livestock in the Richland Creek-Flat Creek watershed.  They use soil sampling to determine whether manure or fertilizer needs to be spread on their fields. They also use rotational grazing and have installed exclusive fencing to keep the cattle out of their ponds. They have also implemented waterways and filter strips and as a result have observed cleaner water leaving the farm, containing less soil and nutrients.
Kevin MundyDubois – Mundy Farms LLC utilizes conservation practices such as no-till, minimum till and strip till, soil sampling, variable rate fertilizer application, cover crops, grassed waterways and WASBs. These practices have reduced erosion and fertilizer runoff while also building soil health. This farm includes classified forest acres, CRP wetland habitat; and, they have conducted timber stand improvement and invasive species management. Kevin has also been involved with the Dubois County Soil and Water Conservation District and their Land Stewardship Initiative. 
Craig BloughElkhart – Years ago, Woodsbrook Farms, Inc., located in the St. Joseph watershed, fenced off their ponds and streams in order to keep heavy cattle traffic out of the waterways.  Recently, they planted pollinator strips and have focused on using their beef herd to maintain and improve their pasture ground. They have installed buffers around the edges of their fields and waterways which has resulted in improved soil health and cleaner water running in and out of the property. 
Kenneth KlabundeFayette – Kenneth and Rebecca Klabunde’s farm was converted to hay production and forest improvement due to the hilly land. Conventional row crop production would lead to excessive topsoil loss and runoff, so they reintroduced White Oak Trees and maintain a forest trail system to allow access to the woods for Timber Stand Improvement and reduced environmental impact. Invasive plant eradication is ongoing as they maintain the property. They have hosted tours for urban families and 4-H groups and they use social media to educate the public on environmentally beneficial practices. 
Glen and Chris JonesFulton – The Tippecanoe River borders the farm of Glen and Chris Jones where they raise sheep, alfalfa hay, and have pasture, timber and row crops. In 1979, after purchasing one of the first no-till planters in the county, they have continued to use it on their own plantings of corn and soybeans. Wind erosion, low organic matter and drought are major concerns on some of their land and the conservation practices of no-till, cover crops and rotational grazing have helped mitigate these issues. Glen is very involved in outreach regarding the protection of natural resources. He assists with the Arrowhead RC&D River Expedition for high school students and has served on the local SWCD board for many years.  
Ryan Stroud and Austin GuyerHendricks –  Iron Brothers Farms was started in 2009 by Ryan and Cayla Stroud and Austin and Carrie Guyer. Their primary focus was production of hay and operations have now expanded into raising and selling approximately 35 head of non GMO beef cattle, non GMO crops and cover crops across all no-till ground. Additional conservation practices implemented include Nutrient and Pest Management, Prescribed Grazing, and Heavy Use Area Protection. These practices have led to better water infiltration and decreased soil erosion. They are grateful for their local NRCS team and grandparents, Steve and Kathy Stamper, who have helped guide and mentor them.
Zachary and Brianne LoweHendricks – Wildlife biologists, Zach and Brianne Lowe, use their land to put into practice the conservation principals they encourage in their professional lives. They raise corn, soybeans, vegetables and poultry and maintain a wetland and forestland. Conservation cover for wildlife, pollinator habitat, and insectary strips are an important focus on this farm not only to aid with increasing these needed ecological features but to also supplement pollination in food crops and wetland creation. Zach works with youth hunter education and Bri is a Girl Scout Troop Leader for the local elementary where they continue to engage local youth in the outdoors and land stewardship.
Rick BrubakerHuntington – Just Kant Rest Farms is located in the Salamonie and Upper Wabash Watershed. Here, Rick and Rhonda Brubaker produce corn, beans, wheat and beef cattle. This family farm of nearly 100 years has experienced improved soil health and cost savings as a result of using reduced tillage. They have also implemented cover crops, filter strips, field borders and grassed waterways on their land. Their field borders have provided excellent wildlife habitat. 
Dale PottschmidtJackson – Pottschmidt Farms Inc. raises grain and small livestock in the Muscatatuck and Upper East Fork of the White River watershed.  By using cover crops and no-tilling, they have improved water infiltration and the worm population on their land. Equipment repairs and field trips have decreased as well as a reduction in run-off. 
Dale has hosted soils judging contests for the Jackson County SWCD and worked with them on their Lake and River Enhancement grant – removing three large logjams. 
Larry PetersonJay – Larry Peterson uses no-till for small grains and leaves corn stalks in place to hold soil during fall and winter. He has designed and built a 36′ air seeder for cover crops and installed a roller crimper with guidance from his local Soil & Water Conservation District. Filter Strips and waterways have been installed and provide wildlife habitat on this family farm of 137 years.  It is important to Larry and his wife to educate their great grandchildren in the importance and protection of our natural resources.  
John MarchinoKnox – Marchino Family Farms, LLC is a family-owned operation specializing in corn, soybeans, wheat and over 20 head of cattle. They utilize cover crops, no-till, variable rate nutrient and pesticide management, WASBS, and a grassed waterway. John states “I believe that since starting no-tilling the land we have been improving our soil’s biological activity. Not only has no till been beneficial to our soil, it is also economically friendly to us as well. It also helps us get across our ground in the spring. Our farm has been in the family for over 150 years and I am the seventh generation to operate it. Since taking over management of the farm, I can already see that utilizing conservation cropping systems and various conservation practices has greatly benefited the ground.”
Mike LongKosciusko – Mike Long, of Mike Long Family Farms LLC, is a first generation farmer producing seed corn, commercial corn, seed soybeans, commercial soybeans, wheat, and rye. His work with Notre Dame has shown that no-till, in combination with cover crops, reduces soil-nutrient loss from the land. Mike also has used and installed additional conservation practices including water control structures, buffer and filter strips and a stage ditch. He is a member of the Soil Health Partnership and received the county Conservation Farmer of the Year award. 
Eldon and Adam OvermanMiami – ELO Farms is a 10th generation farm located in the Upper Wabash and Mississinewa watershed. Here they have implemented no-till, Strip-till, Cover Crops, Grassed Waterways, Filter Strips, and Riparian Buffers. By not disturbing the soil and keeping it covered with plants, earthworms are thriving, water infiltration has improved and crusting has decreased. They also use the 4R nutrient management of the Right source, Right rate, Right time, and Right placement.
Kip & Whitney Schlegel Monroe – Marble Hill Farm is a diversified livestock farm that raises Angus cattle, chickens, and Shetland sheep for grass-finished beef, eggs and wool.  This farm also engages in the production of specialty crops, including fruits, herbs, vegetables and dye plants.  They have implemented many conservation practices on their land including Rotational Grazing, Annual Soil and Forage Testing, and Forest Management. High Tunnels and mulching, reduced tillage and cover crops help reduce compaction, enhance microbial communities and offer an extended growing season with more product to use and sell. They are located in the Lower East Fork White River watershed. 
Zach CainMontgomery – Cains Farm Inc. produces mostly corn and soybeans along with some wheat. They have installed several filter strips to prevent surface water run off from entering waterways. Practicing no-till has benefitted their land during large rain events as the water infiltrates at a higher rate. Approximately 100 acres of their land was put into the Conservation Reserve Program with several acres specifically for quail and pheasant habitat. They share their commitment to conservation by annually hosting 4th grade field days.   
Timothy AdamsMorgan – Dr. Adams and all five of his children have served in the military.  Since his retirement from the Army in 2012, he has had more time to install conservation practices that have improved the land for crops and the timber his farm produces. Located in the Upper White River watershed, the Adams’ family farm practices no-till farming and has implemented grassed waterways. They are currently enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program and practice timber stand improvement, invasive species management, and have created both bird and bat habitats. This family is a Hoosier Homestead Award recipient and the land has been in this family for 143 years. 
Charles DowMorgan – Dow Farms is located in the Upper White River Watershed. The Dow’s have seen an improvement in the health of their soil and their yield after implementing conservation practices over the past few years.  Minimal tillage, cover crops, terraces, and buffer strips have proven to hold the valuable topsoil and nutrients in place on their fields and they have noticed a visible improvement in the clarity of the water leaving their farm. This family is very active in their community. Phil and Patty have been leaders in the Morgan County 4-H program for over 50 years and Chad speaks publically to youth and beginning farmers about sustainable farming. 
Larry BerendaNewton – Larry’s farm has several small ditches that drain immediately into Curtis Creek and all of them are buffered by filter strips. This farm incorporates cover crops, at least 3-crop rotations with wheat covering the land in the winter months, and no-till. This land is in area that is highly erodible and vulnerable to heavy rains and wind erosion, so protection is important. They have been no-tilling since the 1980’s. Larry maintains a wetland for wildlife and they graze their cattle on pasture with specific watering locations away from the streams. Larry has a deep connection to the land and his dedication to conservation applies to not just farming but his family, community, and spiritual life.
Leatherman Farms Inc. Parke – Leatherman Farms has been a no-till operation for 24 years. Conservation practices have improved the soil health of this farm and increased benefits both to the environment and their overall profitability. The ground that has been no-tilled long term noticeably infiltrates more water and therefore less water is running off.  Leatherman Farms is a past Parke County Conservation Farmer of the Year Award recipient. 
Steve MillerPosey – Miller Farms is a 5th generation farm located in the Highland Pigeon watershed. They produce grain and have implemented no-till, reduced till and cover crops on their land. These practices have helped them improve the soil health and save time and money. Their water runoff has decreased and moisture has been observed several inches deep. Miller Farms is also a past Conservation Farmer of the Year Award recipient.  
Josh MitchellPulaski – Josh Mitchell is a 4th generation farmer who raises waxy corn, popcorn and soybeans in the Tippecanoe watershed. He states that conservation practices are important to him as they have benefited his operation with better soil structure, biological life, improved yields and less costs for big machinery.  He has observed less water runoff and better water infiltration on his ground. He is involved in the Pulaski County Extension Board and is a 4-H Club Leader. 
James and David McGaugheyPutnam – Nearly all of the land that Jim & David farm is classified as highly erodible, so reducing erosion is a high priority. They also work hard to be good stewards of the land and to leave things better for future generations. The McGaughey Farm raises corn and soybeans in the Eel River watershed they are nearly 100% no-till. They have installed grassed waterways, filter strips, and Water and Sediment Control Basins. They also use cover crops. For 98 years, this farm has been owned by the family. Jim’s grandfather was presented with a conservation award in the 1940’s and the family has received additional conservation awards over the past 20 years. 
Joseph KernSpencer – Joseph and Melanie Kern produce grain and livestock in the Little Pigeon watershed. They have enjoyed the benefits of better soil health due to the number of years they have implemented no-till farming and cover crops. Those benefits include increased worm activity and root growth. They have noticed that any water that runs off of their land is very clear. The Kern’s maintain a woodland and provide wildlife habitat. Their involvement in the community incudes 4H judging, help with FFA leadership meetings, and teaching high school youth at their church. 
Brent RisnerStarke – Brent Risner’s 4th generation farm produces corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa in the Kankakee watershed. He has implemented minimum tillage, cover crops and variable rate fertilizer applied in the spring. These practices have helped with erosion and water infiltration on his land. He maintains a woodlands and has installed filter strips, which has led to less nutrients entering the waterways like the Yellow River that runs through his property.  
Chris WeaverSteuben – The Bridgewater Dairy Group cares for 6,000 dairy cows and over 5,500 acres of cropland in Steuben County and Williams and Fulton counties in Ohio. They believe it’s their responsibility to respect the environment around their farms including manure storage areas, farm fields, and adjacent ditches and waterways. Over 50% of their farms are planted to cover crops through the winter to also minimize erosion and maintain nutrients in the soil. The primary conservation cropping systems and practices used include dragline manure injection, buffer strips, cover crops, bi-annual soil sampling, and variable rate nutrient management.
Jacob WillsonSteuben – Jacob Willson is the owner/operator of approximately 300 acres of farmland in Steuben County and over 400 acres of farmland in Fulton County, Ohio. He produces corn, soybeans and hay. The primary conservation cropping practices he uses include no-till, reduced-till, cover crops, and grassed waterways. Conservation practices are important to Jacob’s operation because the ground he farms is categorized as highly erodible (HEL) and he has experienced a reduction in erosion by implementing these practices.
Doug BrownSwitzerland – Firth Family Farm produces cattle, hay and row crops in the Middle Ohio-Laughery Watershed. Doug states that they are helping to keep nutrients in the ground with their conservation efforts which, in turn, helps produce a better crop as well as providing grass and hay for the cattle. Their use of cover crops and no-till have made a noticeable difference in the water that leaves the farm going to the river as it contains far less nutrient and sediment runoff. Other conservation practices include watering systems for cattle and Heavy Use Area Protection (HUAP). 
Terry AbernathyUnion – Abernathy Farms is located in the Whitewater watershed. Terry has no-tilled for over 30 years and has benefitted from increased soil health and decreased erosion. He has installed grassed waterways and created habitat for wildlife. Terry  rotationally grazes his livestock and spreads the manure onto his crop fields. He has volunteered on the county 4-H board for over 35 years. 
Joe and Dean SnyderUnion –  Joe and Dean have implemented no-till, cover crops, grassed waterways, Conservation Reserve Program, filter strips and quail buffers. Benefits have included less erosion and less input as fertilizers are now staying in the soil. Wildlife habitat has improved as the soil health has improved. 
Pat BittnerVanderburgh – Pat Bittner’s farm produces corn and soybeans on a rotation. This farm prioritizes principals such as “keeping a living root growing as close to year round as possible” and “minimal disturbance to the soil.” They believe that working with nature instead of against nature has improved water infiltration, increased organic matter, lowered input costs, and minimized erosion, all while maintaining yield. By planting high biomass cover crops each year they have reduced potential erosion problems. They are working on pollinator strips on the top side of their terraced areas where farming is not effective. 
Edward and Mark ShewVermillion – E&M Farms produces corn, soybeans, grain sorghum and popcorn. They use no-till and vertical or minimal tillage practices. About 65-70% of their acres have a cover crop with a wheat/cereal rye mix.  They also side dress nitrogen on 75-80% of their corn, popcorn and grain sorghum acres. Some of Ed and Mark’s ground is in the Conservation Reserve Easement Program for erosion protection as well as wildlife habitat.  They also have woodland acres which are harvested every 20 years to maintain a healthy timber stand. Ed and Mark are 4th generation farmers and have received a past Conservation Farmer of the Year Award from Vigo County. 
Tim, Matt and Leonard Marion Vigo – Maynard and Carole Marion established this farming operation in 1962. Tim and Leonard Marion have continued farming as 2nd generation farmers, and Matt Marion, the 3rd generation, is currently growing the operation to include an Embryo Transfer operative with 150 head. They have been lifetime members of their local Soil & Water Conservation District and help educate local youth regarding agriculture and conservation. They have implemented various conservation practices including No-till, Cover Crops, Waterways, Pollinators, Responsible Manure Management, and sustainable livestock watering solutions.
Wilbur Pearson Warren – The Pearson Family produces corn, soybeans, hay, cows, and trees. They are 100% No Till on Soybeans, 90% No-Till on corn and they use Cereal Rye Grass for cover crop and silage. This farm has been in the Pearson family for over 100 years and it’s important to them to be good stewards for future generations. Wilbur is a past Supervisor on the Soil and Water Conservation District Board and the family has been involved in 4-H. 
Jerry DurchholzWarrick – MDF Farm, Inc. is located in the Lower Ohio/Little Pigeon watershed where they produce grain and use no-till and cover crops. Jerry states that the water that runs off the property looks more like light tea instead of chocolate milk! He believes if you take care of the land, it will take care of you. In 2012, he was the recipient of the Warrick County SWCD Conservation Farmer of the Year Award. 
Aaron and Kelley LeeWashington – Cornerstone Family Farms produces corn, soybeans, high protein non-GMO soybeans, popcorn, high amylose corn and seed beans in Washington County where several creeks and rivers travel through their property. Their conservation system includes crop rotation, no-till, cover crops, nutrient management, and pest management on all cropland acres in their operation. They state that by installing and maintaining filter strips along many miles of creeks and rivers, grassed waterways and critical area plantings in concentrated flow areas, they do not see soil leaving the field.  Also, any nutrients in the surface waters are being filtered out before entering the creeks and rivers.  
James HowellWayne – J & S Howell Farms, LLC produces corn and soybeans.  They are 100% no-till and have installed grassed waterways and Water and Sediment Control Basins. They also use cover crops. The long term health of their soil has improved, especially on the rough, hilly ground.  With improved soil tilth, yields have increased and less machinery and equipment is needed due to no-tilling. James was the 1991 Wayne County SWCD Conservation Farmer of the Year. 
Dave RamseyerWells – Ramseyer Farms is located in the Salamonie River Watershed and produces corn, soybeans and eggs. By utilizing cover crops, minimal tillage and filter strips, they have reduced erosion, increased organic matter and reduced runoff into nearby waterways. They have also installed buffer strips along some wooded areas and they manage a wooded wetlands. Dave participated in the Wells County Soil & Water Conservation District from 2013-2018. 
Kevin BollingerWhitley – Kevin’s farm, located in the Eel River watershed, has been in the family for over 150 years. They produced no-till beans, turbo till corn, rye and cover crops. These conservation practices have helped build the soil health and soil structure leading to sustainability. His increased residue has decreased the sediment runoff. He maintains a balance between the number of livestock and acres of agriculture land available for spreading manure and utilizes soil tests to determine levels of nutrients and soil PH.  

List of past RFF Award Recipients (2000-2019)

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