Tour participants see results of area farm conservation practices

A tour offered by Armstrong Conservation District highlighted the nutrient management practices and  improvements at the Burke Farm in West Franklin. Friday October 25, 2013
A tour offered by Armstrong Conservation District highlighted the nutrient management practices and improvements at the Burke Farm in West Franklin. Friday October 25, 2013
Photo by Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Participants of a conservation bus tour, organized by the Armstrong Conservation District, traveled to West Franklin and Manor townships on Friday to witness the results of conservation practices on an area farm, along a streambed and along a portion of a dirt and gravel road.

Federal and state-elected officials and representatives; members of the ACD board of directors and associates; and representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection Agency attended the tour.

The Burke Farm in West Franklin, which raises 150 Angus beef cattle and two horses, was the first stop on the tour.

The 341-acre farm has about 150 acres of tillable ground; 310 acres are rented out. The family owns a total of 651 acres.

Jessica Schaub, an agricultural conservation technician with ACD, said the Burkes were able to implement agricultural management practices using funds from a $479,000 DEP Growing Greener grant awarded in 2009.

Those practices and improvements included the installation of an animal rail and concrete walkway; a 12-foot deep, 118-foot circular concrete waste storage tank; fencing; the construction of a heavy-use area with a covered roof and vaccination chute; and the addition of an access road.

Before the improvements began in April, there was no contained manure storage area to prevent waste runoff, Schaub said.

Since the construction of the slanted push-off ramp and concrete storage facility, rainwater helps to naturally liquefy the manure so it can be stored and redistributed as fertilizer to the acreage most in need of nutrient replenishment.

Schaub said the DEP requires at least a 15-percent match from participating farmers either through construction costs or salary.

The next stop on the tour highlighted streambed stabilization and management practices along a West Franklin portion of the Patterson Run Watershed.

Watershed Specialist David Beale said the edge of the bank had been eroding.

But as a result of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Beale said, the section of the stream — labeled a sensitive stream by the DEP — underwent a stabilization project to reduce erosion.

That section with its data logger “held up really well through recent flooding,” Beale said.

Chelsea Walker, an Americorps member, said data loggers help monitor the water level, temperature and content of the stream.

She said that ACD partnered with the Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team in 2011 to monitor a total of seven streams.

The data results help to determine management practices and can monitor possible changes in water content from mining practices, gas well development, agricultural practices and from home and commercial construction.

Walker said more volunteers are needed to check the data loggers.

Volunteer John Linkes has accompanied Walker to area streams to check on data and said he enjoys participating in citizen science.

“I like being in the outdoors,” he said.

Dave Rupert, ACD district manager, said the cooperation of landowners is required before a data logger is installed in a designated sensitive stream.

The tour concluded in Manor at a dirt and gravel road project where inadequate cross pipes leading from a private driveway were replaced to control flooding and ponding on the road.

According to the ACD, Manor Township installed six cross pipes and 1,300 feet of under drains. Pipe outlets were stabilized, and more than 500 tons of limestone have been applied to rebuild the road base.

Because funding is limited, the project is being done over three years and will include repairing and resolving the drainage issues on the remainder of the road.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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