Launched by the Department for Environmental Protection in 2006, KY EXCEL is a free, voluntary program open to any individual, organization, community or business that acts to improve Kentucky’s diverse and unique environment through environmental leadership. EXCEL members go above and beyond the state’s environmental requirements.
In the past year, the program has expanded to incorporate one of Kentucky’s largest sectors – agriculture.
KY EXCEL Farm is open to all individuals and entities that conduct production, agriculture, having land and farming crops or livestock, or is an advocacy group for farmers/agriculture. KY EXCEL Farm membership is renewed annually upon conducting at least one voluntary environmental project. The possibility for projects is extensive.
Membership in KY EXCEL Farm is for one year and can be renewed each year. Begin by submitting an EXCEL Farm Application and a Project Proposal form, both of which are available on the Division of Compliance Assistance KY EXCEL Farm website. There you will also find resources such as EXCEL Farm project ideas, a Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Act Planning Tool and a Green Resources Checklist.
Also featured are two Farm Spotlight stories – one on Capstone Farms [PDF] in Henry County, the first member of the KY EXCEL Farm program, and one on the Thompson Ag Exchange [PDF] on a Hardin County farm.
David Neville of Henry County is a producer of Angus and Angus Cross cattle, which is not unusual in this part of the Commonwealth. What is different about Neville and his beef-producing Capstone Farms is that he uses 52 Kiko/Savannah cross goats for browsing brush control. Goats eat woody materials, some of which are harmful to cattle. Spraying chemicals to control toxic plants is expensive and harmful to the environment.
Neville went organic with Capstone Farms, which comprises 258 acres of grassland, by accident. He did soil testing to see what the land needed for cattle. He thought about the environmental and financial costs of pesticides to use around fence rows and decided there must be a better way. That’s when he decided to try goats in his fields. After three years of using no pesticides, Neville’s farms have been certified organic.
Farmers can use best management practices, be environmental leaders and have profitable operations at the same time. Vincent Thompson knows this. He lives and works on the Hardin County farm that his parents have owned since 1973. The farm is 160 acres, of which 40 acres are leased out to grow corn and grain. It is also the location of Thompson’s farm business, Thompson Ag Exchange and the Beck’s Hybrids seed dealership. Thompson sells and delivers corn, soybean, rye, wheat and red clover seeds to area farmers.
Thompson, who is the current district supervisor and chairperson for the Hardin County Conservation District Board of Directors, raises 35 Charolois and Angus beef cattle, including 18 calves. The farm is also home to several breeds of goats, such as Boer, Lamancha, Sannen and Myotonic, or Tennessee Fainting goats.
During his time on the farm, Thompson has seen farming techniques improve and searched for more ways to produce better beef cattle and meat goats, while introducing environmentally friendly practices. His latest project is to install three alternative water sources or waterers for his livestock and fencing around the ponds, creeks and sinkholes. Thompson learned that making small changes in water management and accessibility for livestock will yield improved results in animal health.
When Thompson attended a farm best management practices seminar in Radcliff, he heard about KY EXCEL Farm. He joined the program and made installing waterers for his cattle and goats his program project.
The KY EXCEL Farm program
KY EXCEL Farm members receive one-on-one assistance in identifying activities that can increase profits while minimizing excess nutrient releases, conserving water resources, reducing energy consumption and more.
Being a KY EXCEL Farm member can increase the marketability of your farm and products or advocacy group. In addition to a wealth of information and assistance available, all members have the opportunity to use the EXCEL Farm logo on their promotional materials and website. If you are one of the first 25 farm members, you will receive a commemorative sign to display emphasizing your devotion to promoting sustainable farm practices. Additionally, all KY EXCEL members receive 50 percent off of environmental and compliance stewardship trainings. See what trainings are currently available here.
If you are interested in becoming a KY EXCEL Farm member, learn more by visiting the Division of Compliance Assistance KY EXCEL Farm website.