Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District
2023 Award Winners
On February 15, 2023, Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District hosted its Annual Meeting for landowners. Several local citizens were presented awards for making an impact in soil and water conservation in Morgan County. We are ever grateful for the resources found with in our county but even more so the residents who devote so much energy caring for these valuable resources.
2023 Indiana River Friendly Farmer Award Nominees
In Indiana, since 1999, key conservation & agricultural organizations have sponsored the River Friendly Farmer Program. The statewide initiative recognizes farmers and landowners, who through good production management practices helps keep Indiana’s rivers, lakes and streams clean. Annually, each county SWCD 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 in this statewide program. We would like to congratulate Cragen Farms and Otis and Dee Pugh of Mamaw and Papaw's Farm for being the 2023 Morgan County nominees for this prestigious statewide award.
MORGAN COUNTY FRIEND OF CONSERVATION AWARD
Otis and Dee Pugh built “Mamaw and Papaw’s Farm”, on White Lick Creek in Morgan County after returning from the Army in 1997. They have raised children and grandchildren on the farm and retired from the military after 28 years of service! Besides wonderful memories, the farm produces fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lumber. The Pugh’s have worked diligently, using the USDA Environmental Quality Incentive Program to eradicate invasive plant species, perform timber stand improvement, and plant over 900 new tree seedlings on the 49-acre woodland. They also utilized the program to build a 2,100 square foot seasonal high tunnel, extending the growing season of their produce, which is sold at local farmers markets and donated to a church food pantry. The water, soil, and wildlife on their farm benefit from their hard work and they feel better knowing that they are preventing the spread of invasives downstream. When invasive species, like bush honeysuckle or autumn olive, are cut down, the brush is used to create habitat areas for rabbits and turkeys. Besides giving classes to the Master Gardeners, the Pugh’s run a non-profit LLC called Heroes Wildlife Adventures. Through the Heroes Wildlife Adventures program, they can take disabled veterans and children hunting and fishing. Additionally, they have helped 9 disabled veterans acquire service dogs and a year of training! They have been good stewards of the land and used it to help others and wildlife.
MORGAN COUNTY CONSERVATION FARM OF THE YEAR
Cragen Farms have been farming in Morgan County for over 100 years. Since many of their fields are located in the floodplains of the White River, they have learned that it is important, for sustainable crop production, to protect and keep the valuable topsoil and plant residue in place during seasons of heavy rain. They have reduced their tillage and use conservation tillage, along with planting cover crops in the winter to help improve soil health and prevent erosion. Filter strips and riparian buffers help to filter the nutrients and sediment out of water before it leaves the farm and enters waterways.
Installing pollinator and wildlife habitats has proved beneficial to the farm as well. Besides row crop farming, the farm contains over 1,300 acres of hardwoods. Intense management of these forest preserves the integrity of them. Timber stand improvement, vine and invasive species control, and rotational selective harvest keep their forests heathy. The Cragen’s have farmed everything from potatoes and woodland to grains and oilseeds. They are proud of their tradition of stewardship and operate with the goal of leaving their farm in better shape than it was when they received it.
2023 Youth in Conservation Awards
Amber and Katlynn Zupancic
Amber Zupancic is a senior at Indian Creek High School. She is a ten year 4-H member, four-year FFA member, and active in her community. She shows horses and rabbits and submits multiple indoor projects--such as cake decorating, livestock posters, aquatic science, and photography--at the Morgan County Fair. Amber competes at local contesting shows and looks forward to showing her horse Misty at the Indiana State Fair.
Amber’s father, Robert Zupancic, is a soil scientist at NRCS. She has learned a plethora about the importance of pasture rotation and cover crops from him. Amber has used this knowledge to prevent overgrazing in her horse herd pastures. She also did a soil and water demonstration through the FFA Career Development Event.
Conservation is important to Amber because “I want pasture and cropland to be usable for generations to come. Keeping our soil healthy will allow our farm to continue to produce quality beef cattle, corn, hay, wheat, and soybeans.”
Zupancic Farms is celebrating its 107th year of farming and earned the Centennial Hoosier Homestead Award in 2020.
Amber never outgrew her love for horses, so she plans to study equine science with a minor in rehabilitation and therapy at a four-year college.
Katlynn Zupancic is a senior at Indian Creek High School. She is a ten year 4-H member, four-year FFA member, and active in her community. She shows horses has completed multiple indoor projects--such as hay and crops at the Morgan County Fair.
Her family practices several conservation practices on their farm. Cover crops, no-till and conventional tillage, along with grassed waterways help prevent erosion and decrease sediment that can get into the waterways on the farm. The cover crops also give the soil healthy nutrition when there is not a cash crop growing.
In FFA, she has served in many officer positions and competed in soils judging, crops judging, and horse judging. Her Supervised Agricultural Experience project in FFA has mainly consisted of working at her family’s sweet corn stand and it received 2nd place in Indiana in the Vegetable Production Category. Through that project, she learned “how the difference in soil can dramatically change the yield of your crops”.
When asked why conservation is important to her, Katlynn said, “Conservation is important to me because as the world changes, it is important to keep the long-term productivity of the soil for future generations to continue to be able to grow on it.”
Katlynn plans to attend Franklin College and major in Elementary Education
2023 Conservationist of the Year Award
Each year, the Morgan County SWCD selects one landowner whom has exhibited a desire to improve the soil and water quality on their farm and implemented new conservation practices in order to do so.The Davee family has a long history of farming in the Mooresville area. In 1959, the family bought 200 acres of farmland and forests overlooking the West Fork White River valley in Morgan County. Through the years, they stepped out of farming the crop land and eventually sold it, keeping the 50 acres of forests. Ruth Larsen began managing the land 3 years ago in hopes that the forest would continue to prosper for the many species of wildlife that call it home. Through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), Ruth has completed 16.7 acres of Forest Stand Improvement, three years of Invasive Brush management on 20.8 acres, and 1.5 acres of supplemental tree plantings throughout her upland forest. She has further insured the integrity of the forest with the installation of almost 3,000 feet of exclusion fences to keep livestock out of the reclaimed forest. Because these projects were planned and coordinated through EQIP contracts with the USDA, she received technical and financial incentives to complete the projects. You cannot visit this forest without seeing deer, coyotes, or hearing numerous songbirds in the treetops.
Ruth has memories of witnessing the birth of new life, riding tractors with her dad, and playing outside with friends and neighbors. She recollects that time on the farm as magical and hopes that future generations will be able to make memories in the woods at Davee Farm.
2023 Outstanding Supervisor Award
Mr. Lou Feagans has been served as a supervisor and advisor to the Morgan County SWCD since 2001. Over the last 21 years, Lou has been there for many SWCD successes. He was instrumental in the Fallwood day camps for kids and has been a champion in Morgan County for conservation education in the school and youth programs. Adult and teacher programs like Master Naturalist and Project Learning Tree thrived under Lou’s attention. He has helped shape the relationship that the SWCD has with our community, and we have been able to reach out to more farmers and landowners with his help through grants and conservation programs. He has been a steadfast and reliable member of this board. As he steps from a Supervisor position on the board and into an associate membership, we want to take this moment to thank him for his 21 years of service and dedication to conservation in Morgan County!
2023 Outstanding FFA Chapters of Morgan County
Indian Creek FFA Chapter
Indian Creek Ag Department has grown tremendously over the past 5 years. They now have 3 teachers in the Ag department, offering courses from 7th to 12th grade. Additionally, they have a cattle farm, Creek Cattle Company, where the students raise animals to harvest. Upon harvest the majority of the meat is sold to the cafeteria, but they do hold a public retail cut sale as well.
They have a 10-acre farm plot where the row crop funds help support the cattle farm. They are also in the process of building a new greenhouse with the hopes of completion by the end of the calendar year. We have over 110 FFA members in the chapter, competing in various competitions and attending numerous conferences.
This year, their soils judging team competed at the National Land Judging Invitational in May of 2022. Team members were Tobias Sturgell, Eli Ray, Kaitlyn Ellis, and Grace Soots. 2 of those team members graduated last year and 2 are seniors this year.
The soils team of Grace Soots, Kaitlyn Ellis, Ian Blazer, and Andrew Elsbury qualified and competed at the state competition in the Masters Division and placed 10th.
Their FFA Advisor is Mr. Joey Dunn
Mooresville High School FFA
The Fall teams placed very well at state (after qualifying in area): Horticulture placed Team 4th / 51 at state; Megan Panarisi placed 3rd/181 individually team members: Kai Crossland, Nick Isenberg, Megan Panarisi, Breanna Mendenhall
Entomology placed Team 8th / 45 at state team members: Emma Eytcheson, Kai Crossland, Victoria Hamilton
Forestry placed Team 11th/ 58 at state team members: Breanna Mendenhall, Megan Panarisi, Nick Isenberg and Chapter President: Mabrie Lasater
Their FFA Advisor is Mr. Brad Gillum
We would also like to thank our District Conservationist, Mr. Tony Branam for his assistance in Morgan County. He has been valuable in navigating the Farm Bill Programs administered by the NRCS and the FSA to most of our award winners and for that we are grateful!