When it comes to cows and conservation, Mt-Glen Farms is known for quality. Just as families of prized Holsteins have produced superior genetics, a strong conservation ethic has been passed down among the farm’s owners.
Dean and Rebecca Jackson’s herd of high-quality dairy cows is internationally known within the registered cattle industry. Sales of their offspring has benefited the farm’s bottom line while improving the Holstein breed’s bloodlines. Mt-Glen Farms is also a place where conservation and production agriculture have been inseparable for three generations.
Dean’s grandfather, Scott Jackson, began farming amid the scenic hills of Bradford County in 1929. He practiced contour strip cropping, planted trees and hedgerows, built surface water diversions, and preserved habitat for wildlife after developing the farm’s first conservation plan.
After Dean’s father Ben took over the farm, he voluntarily constructed a manure storage facility that allowed him to efficiently use manure nutrients to grow crops while protecting water quality by limiting the need to spread manure during the winter. Like father like son, Dean built heifer housing with enough capacity to provide the same flexibility needed for proper manure management.
As he gained greater awareness of the importance of soil structure and the negative effects of compaction from tires, Dean began changing the way he farmed.
Motivated to farm in a way that mimics the natural system, he adopted a no-till system for crop production and implemented a rotational grazing system on 20 acres of pasture. Trees were planted on 40 acres near a creek. The riparian area provides habitat for wildlife and space for runoff to infiltrate. He says these changes have “made farming fun all over again.”
Dean showed leadership by adopting a nutrient management plan in the 1990s, even though it was only required of Pennsylvania’s largest livestock farms. Every crop field at Mt-Glen Farms is surrounded by a permanent grass border to prevent soil erosion, and is regularly soil sampled to evaluate its nutrient needs. In recent years, the Jacksons have planted rye grass as a cover crop into standing fields of corn and soybeans. This conservation tool improves soil health, prevents erosion and naturally controls weeds.
Dean has been described as having a contagious enthusiasm for agricultural conservation. Last spring another 2,000 tree seedlings were planted on the farm. Two-thirds of the farm’s energy needs come from a solar energy array on a machinery shed’s roof.
All three of Dean and Rebecca’s children are involved with the farm, including daughter Katie who is the full-time herd manager. The Jacksons regularly host groups from 4-H clubs to legislative leaders who want to learn how conservation can work alongside production agriculture. The family behind Mt-Glen Farms have emerged as conservation and dairy industry leaders who simply love what they do.