Mark O’Neill, Media and Strategic Communications Director
January 11, 2019
HARRISBURG, Penn. – The DiFebo family’s Harvest Home Farms of Northampton County has been selected as the first recipient of the 2018 Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award®. View video
Sand County Foundation, the nation’s leading voice for private conservation, created the Leopold Conservation Award to inspire American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers and foresters. The prestigious award, named in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, is given in 14 states.
The DiFebo family was presented with a $10,000 award and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold at the 2019 Farm Show, January 11 in Harrisburg. The award is presented in Pennsylvania by Heinz Endowments, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Sand County Foundation.
The roots of Harvest Home Farms trace back to when Elton Ott purchased 100 acres in the northeast corner of Northampton County in 1930. Its proximity to New York City was a benefit as Elton’s son, Budd, began dairy farming in the 1940s. Today, their ancestors, the DiFebos have created a following for their beef in several states. The farm’s website educates consumers on the benefits of grass-fed beef and agricultural conservation.
Richard DiFebo initially saw the former dairy farm as a hobby in the 1990s. If the family farm was to be passed down to his children someday, he knew it was his turn to implement sustainable conservation practices that would benefit its soil and water.
Richard’s career in the lawn care business had equipped him with an extensive knowledge of grasses and soil. While researching the health benefits of grass-fed beef, he realized specializing in a niche market would fetch premium prices. Done right, grazing beef cattle would also restore the farm’s soil.
Highly-erodible, conventional corn and soybean fields were planted with permanent grasses to provide pasture and reduce erosion. Assistance from Ducks Unlimited fenced off streams and ponds so cattle would not erode the banks. Over time, 175 acres were divided into 70 grazing paddocks. A rotation system would allow for long rest periods between each grazing. Another 130 acres grow hay, and 30 acres grow non-traditional, diverse forages like sorghum, oats and crimson clover.
After graduating from college, Richard’s son Dohl returned to the farm, as a partner. Together, Rich and Dohl established a diverse cropping system with cover crops. Contour strips and grass waterways were installed, and a desolate shale pit was reclaimed so it could support plant growth and eventually be pastured.
Introducing diverse vegetation, rotational grazing and less soil compaction improved the soil’s biology and its ability to absorb water. The rejuvenated land could support more cattle without negative environmental impacts.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service assisted with improved fencing and farm lanes. The Department of Energy provided funding for a solar-powered watering system. Preventing cattle from walking to a centralized water tank ensured even distribution of nutrients on the land.
After accepting help for conservation projects on his farm, Richard collaborated with a local school district and the Martin’s Jacoby Watershed to share his knowledge with others. He convinced the school district to transform an abandoned tree farm into pasture. The site now features an outdoor classroom that promotes the benefits of grazing and other conservation practices.
“The DiFebo family has done an outstanding job of demonstrating how farmers can be exceptional stewards of the land, while operating a successful animal and crop farm,” said Pennsylvania Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert. “The DiFebos used creativity and an understanding of soil and natural resources to implement a variety of conservation improvement projects on Harvest Home Farms. We believe the DiFebos are truly deserving of being recognized with the Leopold Conservation Award.”
“The Heinz Endowments’ sustainability program promotes community health and vitality through sustainable food systems, and as part of this work we are pleased to cosponsor the Leopold Conservation Award. We believe the Leopold Conservation Award, and the outstanding leadership in agriculture that it recognizes, plays an important role in encouraging the continued growth of Pennsylvania’s sustainable agriculture movement,” said Andrew McElwaine, Vice President of Sustainability for The Heinz Endowments.
Among the many outstanding landowners nominated for the award were finalists: Glen Cauffman of Millerstown (Perry County), Frosty Springs Farm of Waynesburg (Green County) and Donald and Donna Feusner of Athens (Bradford County).
The Leopold Conservation Award in Pennsylvania is made possible thanks to the generous contributions from platinum sponsor, Heinz Endowments, and the assistance and support of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, USDA NRCS, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts, Center for Dairy Excellence, and Dairymen’s Association.
For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.
THE LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION
Sand County Foundation inspires and enables a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation. www.sandcountyfoundation.org
PENNSYLVANIA FARM BUREAU
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization, representing farms of every size and commodity across Pennsylvania.
The Heinz Endowments is devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic and environmental sustainability. Core to our work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive.