Agricultural Environmental Management Award
2015 Winners - McMahon’s E-Z Acres and Cortland County Soil & Water Conservation District
McMahon’s E-Z Acres progressive farming practices stand out for environmental stewardship
The recipient of New York’s top agricultural environmental award - the 2015 Agricultural Environmental Management Award is McMahon’s E-Z Acres Farm. E-Z Acres along with Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District were honored during a ceremony at the Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls. The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Empire State Potato Growers, and the American Agriculturist Magazine presented the award to E-Z Acres Farm for its environmental ethics, progressive production practices, and community service work.
"The protection and conservation of our soil and water is increasingly important to farms across the state and I applaud the ongoing efforts to ensure they are being good stewards of the environment," Governor Cuomo said. “I congratulate the McMahon Family and the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District for receiving the Agricultural Environmental Management award. These types of forward-thinking solutions are helping to not only ensure agricultural sustainability but also increase economic opportunity."
The McMahon family operates a 680-cow dairy farm on 2,500 acres of land in the Skaneateles Lake watershed in Homer, NY. To support their dairy operation, they also raise corn, alfalfa, and grass hay crops. As early adopters of the principles of agricultural environmental management, E-Z Acres farm has implemented several conservation practices that have also increased productivity.
Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The McMahons have made good environmental and animal care practices a top priority for their farm, and we congratulate them on their commitment to agricultural sustainability. Their environmentally conscious practices, with critical support from Cortland County SWCD, are a model for other farms and they are good partners to the community. We wish them continued success going forward."
The farm has replaced the traditional alfalfa-corn silage rotation with intensive grasses, which enhances soil conservation while also benefitting dairy herd health. With E-Z Acres’ land resting over Cortland County’s sole-source aquifer, the McMahons are also dedicated to quarterly monitoring of the water quality through stream and well testing. In addition, the farm uses a monitoring system and liner for the farm’s three million gallon manure storage, cover cropping of corn silage fields annually, and precision feed management to protect soil health. The farm has also taken energy efficiency measures by replacing lighting with energy efficient fixtures throughout the farm.
Michael McMahon, Owner and partner of McMahon’s E-Z Acres, said, “I’m humbled to receive this esteemed award. At McMahon’s E-Z Acres, it’s about doing things right and not about doing it for the awards. Like many in our business, we believe if we take care of the environment, the environment will take care of us.”
The McMahons were the first animal welfare-approved farm in New York State and have been leaders in the community representing the farm and the agriculture industry’s interests. E-Z Acres hosts several annual community events, including an annual Farm Field Day for Cortland County fifth graders and a Cornell University farm management class. They also partner with the Syracuse Rotary Club to provide farm tours for low-income families.
The farm has worked closely with the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District, which provides technical assistance to advance agricultural environmental management practices within the county. The District uses the feedback to improve its own efforts for environmental management in agriculture.
Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Amanda Barber, said, “We are fortunate to have a population of farms and agricultural producers who by and large have embraced environmental stewardship as a way of doing business. Innovative, informed and proactive farms like McMahon’s EZ Acres have helped make both District conservation programs and agricultural environmental management successful in Cortland County.”
The Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District has a very active agricultural environmental management program which has assisted over 387 farms since its inception. It provides rotational grazing planning and implementation assistance, planning and implementation assistance for living snow fences, streambank stabilization, and riparian buffers, in addition to the usual agricultural farmstead practices. They have successfully secured assistance funding through the State Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control grant program. Since 1996, the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District has been awarded over $6.2 million in grant funds to help implement sound environmental practices on 58 farms across the county.
E-Z Acres Farm also received several honors over the years, including Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Farmers Partnering to Protect the Environment acknowledgement in 2007 and Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program’s Environmental Steward of the Year award in 2013.
New York State’s agricultural environmental management framework is a model for the nation as a voluntary, incentive-based approach to protect natural resources and meet the economic needs of the agricultural community.