Witkamps earn state conservation honor

Greg and Eva Witkamp (center) accept the River Friendly Farmer Award from Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman (left) and Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock Aug. 19 at the Indiana Sate Fair.
Greg and Eva Witkamp (center) accept the River Friendly Farmer Award from Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman (left) and Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock Aug. 19 at the Indiana Sate Fair. Photo provided.

Greg and Eva Witkamp, of Warren, were recognized as River Friendly Farmers on Aug. 19 during Farmers' Day at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.

The Witkamps, owners of Hobovalley Farm, were among 63 farmers in 48 Hoosier counties to receive the 2009 award, which recognizes them as top conservationists.

The Warren couple participates in the "Safe Program" established by the United States Natural Resources Conservation Service to help conserve the endangered Indiana bat.

The 220-acre Hobovalley Farm had 134.8 tillable acres. All the tillable ground was planted with 74,200 trees and shrubs in the spring of 2009. The varieties included bur oak, chinkapin oak, white oak, red oak, shumard oak, swamp white oak, tulip tree, black walnut, shagbark hickory, black cherry, sycamore, silver maple Kentucky coffee tree, white pine, common chokecherry, American plum and hazelnut.

The objective of the program is to improve the wildlife habitat for various species including the endangered Indiana bat while producing a natural and aesthetically pleasing appearance, increasing the recreational opportunities, providing wind protection, reducing soil erosion, improving water quality and establishing an economically valuable timber resource.

Of the Witkamps' total 220 acres, 214 will be registered as a Classified Forest through the DNR and will qualify for ATFS (American Tree Farm System) Certification. The timber and wood products can be marketed as "Green Certified."

The Witkamps were nominated for the award by the Huntington County Soil & Water Conservation District.

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, secretary of agriculture, and Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock presented the Witkamps with their award. Also joining in the ceremony Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts President Paula Baldwin and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Jane Hardisty. The award was presented on behalf of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.