Caleb and Alice Crothers Receive Maryland Leopold Conservation Award
December 05, 2022
Watch their inspiring conservation story
Caleb and Alice Crothers of Rising Sun have been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Maryland Leopold Conservation Award®.
The Crothers’ Long Green Farms is among the oldest dairy farms in Maryland. Caleb and Alice were presented with the $10,000 award at the Maryland Farm Bureau’s Annual Convention on December 5.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners in 24 states for land, water, and wildlife habitat management. In Maryland, the award is presented with Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Maryland Association of Conservation Districts, and Maryland Farm Bureau Inc.
“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 which 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.”
“Caleb and Alice Crothers have innovated a tremendous number of projects in their operations, and we are thrilled that they are being recognized for their efforts,” said Samantha Campbell, Campbell Foundation President. “This level of commitment and holistic thinking goes well beyond what is required to operate a farm and dairy, and no doubt they have weathered setbacks and obstacles along the way. Their achievements exemplify extraordinary thinking and desire to contribute to balance in the natural world, and most presently the Chesapeake Bay. I’m inspired by their multi-pronged approach, and so grateful that they chose to come back to their roots in Rising Sun.”
“Congratulations to the Crothers family. Long Green Farms, Inc. puts conservation front and center in their operation, and their legacy is exceptional even among Maryland’s lengthy list of stewardship-minded farmers,” said Bruce Yerkes, Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts President.
“These award recipients are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Crothers,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”
Earlier this year, Maryland landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders. Among the outstanding Maryland landowners nominated for the award were finalists: Mount Pleasant Acres Farms of Preston in Caroline County, and Persimmon Tree Farm of Westminster in Carroll County.
The Leopold Conservation Award is given to farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners across the U.S. in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.
The Maryland Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Maryland Association of Conservation Districts, Maryland Farm Bureau Inc., Sand County Foundation, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Horizon Farm Credit, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Delmarva Chicken Association, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Conservancy, ShoreRivers, and The Nature Conservancy.
There’s a new sheriff in town on one of Maryland’s oldest dairy farms.
Caleb and Alice Crothers were in their thirties when they left behind law enforcement and healthcare careers in Knoxville to return to his family’s farm. Caleb took over the 200-cow herd at Long Green Farms in 2015, the year before his father passed away.
Long Green Farms is located amid intense residential growth near the environmentally sensitive Chesapeake Bay. The Crothers don’t plan to grow their dairy herd’s size and are using conservation practices to make the farm economically and environmentally sustainable.
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 8763 pounds of nitrogen, 1210 pounds of phosphorus, and 1974 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 neighbors and promotes ag literacy via her ‘Heels and Holsteins’ Facebook page. Caleb, an eighth-generation dairy farmer, 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.
Despite owning a family farm that has been around since 1759, it’s clear Caleb and Alice aren’t resting on its laurels.
LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). www.leopoldconservationaward.org
SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION inspires and empowers 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
AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through its No Farms, No Food message. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families. www.farmland.org
THE KEITH CAMPBELL FOUNDATION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT'S mission in the Chesapeake Bay Region is to improve water quality and ecological balance in the Bay and its rivers, as a healthy bay fosters a vibrant regional economy and provides exceptional recreational opportunities and a better quality of life. The Foundation provides approximately $7 million in funding through more than 150 grants annually, and has been funding in the region since 1998. www.campbellfoundation.org
MARYLAND FARM BUREAU®, INC. is a 501(c)(5) federation that serves as the united voice of Maryland farm families. Our organizational strength comes from the active participation of over 12,000 individual and family members who belong to the state’s 23 local county Farm Bureau organizations. Since 1915, Maryland Farm Bureau has been committed to protecting and growing agriculture and preserving rural life. Maryland Farm Bureau is a proud member of the American Farm Bureau® Federation. www.mdfarmbureau.com
MARYLAND ASSOCIATION OF SOIL CONSERVATION DISTRICTS serves as the voice of Maryland’s 24 soil and water conservation districts on state legislative issues. It also provides a forum for training, policy-making and the exchange of information at their annual and quarterly gatherings. Its mission is to promote practical and effective soil, water, and related natural resources programs to all citizens through individual conservation districts on a voluntary bases through leadership, education, cooperation and local direction. www.mascd.net