Eighth-generation Maryland dairy farm recognized for conservation efforts
Maryland Farm Bureau members Caleb and Alice Crothers were in their 30s when they left behind law enforcement and health care careers in Knoxville to return to his family’s farm in Rising Sun, Maryland. Caleb, the eighth generation to run the dairy farm, took over the 200-cow herd at Long Green Farms in 2015, the year before his father passed away.
The Crothers Family of Rising Sun, Maryland
Established in 1759, Long Green Farms is located amid intense residential growth near the environmentally sensitive Chesapeake Bay. The Crothers’ use of conservation practices to make the farm economically and environmentally sustainable earned them the 2022 Maryland Leopold Conservation Award. The award, given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, recognizes ranchers, farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their voluntary conservation efforts on private, working lands.
“Caleb and Alice Crothers show that a well-balanced farm goes hand in hand with a well-balanced life. The eighth-generation Long Green Farms is a productive dairy farm that takes to heart a strong conservation ethic by practicing no-till farming, cover crops and a recent planting of 60,000 trees, and is stewarded by community-involved parents of young children,” said John Torres, Maryland Farm Bureau executive director. “Between the two, they have also addressed heavy-use livestock areas, rainwater capture, and even electricity production, all while finding time to volunteer with dairy and ag organizations and community groups, and teaching preschool.”
Land, Water and Animals
The Crothers partnered with Appalachian Stream Restoration and Wetland Studies in 2020 to reconstruct and realign more than 14,200 feet of streambank of a creek that feeds into North East Creek, a direct tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. The project included planting 60,000 trees, grading, and installation of many stream and fish habitat improvements. The project prevents 8,763 pounds of nitrogen, 1,210 pounds of phosphorus and 1,974 pounds of sediment from entering the creek annually.
To prevent soil erosion from farm fields, the Crothers plant 300 acres of cover crops to slow the velocity of rainfall and melting snow. Cover crops also improve the soil’s ability to infiltrate water, cycle nutrients and build organic matter. An aerial applicator is used to broadcast cover crop seeds into standing crops of soybeans and corn, which gives the cover crop a jump start prior to the corn and soybean harvest. Long Green Farms also invested in a no-till planter for corn and soybeans to not disturb the soil’s structure.
To minimize the use of commercial fertilizers, the Crothers use drag lining to apply manure on their 225 acres of corn, 120 acres of soybeans, and 80 acres of hay. This process reduces field compaction and allows for precise application.
A livestock barn with manure storage was constructed in 2017 to provide a stable, non-eroding surface to house heifers. Clean rainwater from its roof and runoff from terraces are diverted to grassed waterways that carry water to a safe discharge area without creating flooding or erosion. These areas, along with the land Caleb’s grandfather enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, improve water quality while providing wildlife habitat.
While Long Green Farms has lots of neighbors, it doesn’t generate complaints. Alice connects with the community and promotes ag literacy via her “Heels and Holsteins” Facebook page. Caleb serves on the National Dairy Research and Promotion Board. The Crothers have placed 535 of Long Green Farms’ acres into permanent protection with the Cecil Land Trust.
As for what’s next, the Crothers will soon replace an earthen lagoon with a concrete structure to store manure. With a goal of achieving carbon neutrality, they are exploring options to install a methane digester to generate electricity, and a sand separator to recycle sand used as livestock bedding. As farmers, they cite conserving the environment among their greatest callings.
Leopold Conservation Award
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 24 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.
In Maryland, the $10,000 award is presented annually with Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Maryland Association of Conservation Districts and Maryland Farm Bureau Inc.