Frances Huber of Animal Welfare Approved Brush Creek Farm has earned Runner-Up in the 2013 North Carolina Outstanding Conservation Farm Family award due to her keen attention to animal welfare and ecological viability. She is the first individual woman to earn the Runner-Up award, which recognizes her dedication to the environment and wildlife protection, while at the same time operating a working farm.
According to The North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Outstanding Conservation Farm Family award "recognizes farmers/farm families who are taking the initiative to implement sound, innovative and cost-effective conservation techniques, and are actively involved in conservation education and the community." Entries for the award were judged on an Area, Regional and State level. The state judging team was comprised of experts representing federal and state agricultural and natural resource agencies, the Association and farm organizations.
Huber was nominated by Alleghany County’s Soil and Water Conservation District Board in 2012 at the Area level and went on to win the Mountain Region. Victory in the Mountain Region placed Huber into the state competition against the winning farm from the Piedmont Region. Huber came in Runner-Up by only 10 points of a possible 500 behind the Piedmont Region for the state title.
Huber also recently earned Animal Welfare Approved certification for Brush Creek Farm, an accolade called a "badge of honor for farmers" and the "gold standard." This certification and food label lets consumers know that the animals were raised in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S., using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent family farm.
Along with the assistance of Bobby Irwin, cattle partner and farm manager, Huber has worked tirelessly to transform Brush Creek Farm into an environmentally conscious, sustainable cattle operation. Working closely with the local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field office and the Alleghany soil and water conservation district, Huber has participated in a number of conservation programs designed to protect water quality, as well as prevent soil erosion on her farm. She has installed 21 soil and water conservation best management practices ranging from forage management to total stream restoration. Over 14,000 feet of pipeline have been installed throughout the farm to support complex grazing systems and provide water to livestock after excluding cattle from streams.
Brush Creek Farm is home to 135 Animal Welfare Approved Angus beef cattle, raised on 150 acres of pasture. Huber says, "The animals’ welfare is tied directly to the well-being of the farm’s soil and water. Without a clean, nourishing source of both of these, the health of the pasture and herd would just deteriorate." The cattle herd grazes only one small area of grass per day, using an intensive, rotational grazing model that keeps the soil healthy and fertilized, and allows the grass to regrow before the animals feed on it again. Combined with the careful and timely application of manure stored during the winter months to the fields, this method saves the farm thousands of dollars on fertilizer costs annually and minimizes potential pollution risks to waterways.
Huber is very thankful for her success. She says, "I feel truly blessed because my dream, since age six, to someday live on a farm has come true, and the dream has become so much bigger than she could have ever imagined. I love being a farmer!"
Brush Creek Farm was the first "agri-tourism" business in the area with over 1,800 guests from 2001-2004. Huber is an active member of the Alleghany Cattlemen’s Association, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Blue Ridge Conservancy (formerly Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust), and Georgia Organics.
AWA Program Director Andrew Gunther says, "Frances is a fantastic representative of AWA and her story is inspirational to other farmers. This award is a great testament to her hard work and she thoroughly deserves it."
For more information about The North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, visit www.ncaswcd.org. For more information about Frances and her farm visit www.animalwelfareapproved.org.