There’s no reason to cry over spilled milk — unless it’s seeping into the local watershed.
Twenty years ago, John Luther wanted to find a more efficient way to handle the milk waste on his dairy farm in Acworth. With the help of a federal conservation agency, he learned of a tank-and-pump system used in Pennsylvania and became the first farmer to replicate the system in New England, according to the Sullivan County Conservation District.
For this and other efforts toward more responsible land use, Luther and his wife, Robin, of Parnassus Farm are one of 10 recipients of the Conservation Legacy Award.
In honor of New Hampshire conservation districts’ 75th anniversary, each county district is presenting the award to businesses, individuals, families and organizations that have demonstrated “sustained commitment to the stewardship of natural resources,” according to the Cheshire County Conservation District. The other area recipient is the Monadnock Conservancy in Keene.
Nominations for the awards were submitted earlier this year, and the conservation district’s board of supervisors in each county reviewed the nominations to select 10 winners across the state.
Rising up from the fields on Luther Hill Road in Acworth, Parnassus Farm is a great example of what the intersection of conservation and farming can look like, according to a news release from the Sullivan County Conservation District.
The milkhouse waste system the Luthers installed two decades ago is a combination of settling tanks and pumps that discharge milk waste evenly at the edge of the farmstead, where it can be absorbed by sod. John Luther also works with Natural Resource Conservation Services to find ways he can better preserve his land, and has served on the Sullivan County Conservation District’s board of supervisors for 24 years. (Luther didn’t participate in the board’s selection of the Conservation Legacy Award’s winner, according to Dawn Dextraze, the district’s education and outreach specialist.)
Luther grew up on Parnassus Farm, following in the footsteps of his father, Earl Luther Jr.
Earl was also committed to responsible agriculture and “made [a] consistent effort to apply as many conservation practices as possible on his 192-acre farm,” the release states, quoting a 1984 SCCD annual report.
According to the conservation district, the welfare of his cows is a major motivator for John Luther’s conservation efforts, which help provide the animals with a clean, healthy environment. At the recommendation of Natural Resource Conservation Services, Luther allows his cows to graze in pastures on his farm.
Robin Luther has done her part to serve the community too. As a youth and family 4-H field specialist in the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension’s Sullivan County Office, she spent 36 years educating young people about caring for natural resources. She retired in June.
The couple wants people to understand the importance of conservation.
“The natural world needs care. Love your cows, love the land, love the water. It sustains us,” they said in the release.
From the chilly waterfalls of Calhoun Family Forest in Gilsum to the trails around Cunningham Pond in Peterborough, the Monadnock Conservancy has strived to permanently protect large swaths of land across southwestern New Hampshire.
In just over 30 years, the Keene-based nonprofit has conserved 240 properties for a total of 21,500 acres, according to a news release from the Cheshire County Conservation District.
The Monadnock Conservancy works with landowners to establish conservation easements, a legal agreement to limit uses of the land. People in the Monadnock Region can agree to an easement while still owning their property, but the land will be permanently protected, even if it’s sold to new owners. People can also donate or sell land to the Conservancy.
The land trust has a 10-person staff, but the Conservation Legacy Award “is as much for the Conservancy as it is for all the individuals and families who have partnered with them,” the news release states.
As described by the Cheshire County Conservation District, the Conservancy’s success lies in part in the organization’s ability to recognize community values and priorities. The nonprofit is currently partnering with the Winchester Learning Center to create a 3.5-acre nature park at the corner of Route 10 and Lawrence Street. The park will not only provide local children with an opportunity to engage with the outdoors, but also, with a recently completed boardwalk, be accessible by wheelchair, walker and stroller.
Conservation Legacy Award recipients will be honored at a virtual ceremony on July 20.