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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : News : Annual Agricultural and Urban Governor’s Conservation Award Winners Honored Today

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April 22, 2008
Vol. 38, No. 171 

For further information, contact Michelle Jacobs, Community Relations Officer, 302-739-9921, or Joanna Wilson, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902. PHOTOS OF THE AWARD WINNERS AVAILABLE ON REQUEST. 

Annual Agricultural and Urban Governor’s
Conservation Award Winners Honored Today

DOVER, Del. - This morning, Tuesday, April 22, at the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village in Dover, Governor Ruth Ann Minner led a ceremony with DNREC Secretary John A. Hughes and Delaware Association of Conservation Districts President Josef “Andy” Burger recognizing the winners of the Annual Agricultural and Urban Governor’s Conservation Awards.  The Governor also signed a proclamation officially designating April 27 through May 4 as Soil and Water Stewardship Week. 

This year’s Conservation Award winners are: 

County                          Category                     Winners

New Castle                  Agricultural                Ben Walters, Clayton

New Castle                  Urban                          Dolores A. Washam, Wilmington 

Kent                             Agricultural                  Charmayne Busker, Busker Family Dairy,

Kent                             Urban                          Joseph Petrosky, Dover

Sussex                         Agricultural                  Carlton Jones, C&J Farms, Seaford

Sussex                         Urban                          George, Miles and Buhr, Salisbury, Md.

Here’s more on the conservation award winners:


  • Ben Walters, Clayton – Agricultural Award

Ben Walters is a grain farmer in the southwest corner of New Castle County. The home farm, Delancy Manor Farm, which is adjacent to the Cypress Branch, totals 179 acres. Mr. Walters also rents additional acreage in Delaware and Maryland for a total of 691 acres.

With the home farm located next to Cypress Branch, Mr. Walters knows the importance of being careful with farmland management. A strong proponent of no-till farming practices, he uses this conservation tillage technique to grow no-till corn, soybeans, wheat, and rye. He uses a yield monitor to spot problems in his crop fields and follows up with soil tests using smart sampling techniques.  

Other current conservation practices include: soil, pest, nutrient and habitat management enhancements under the Conservation Security Program; the New Castle Conservation District’s cover crop program; and use of filter strips under the USDA-FSA Conservation Reserve Program. Past conservation practices have included the installation of a pond, planting switch grass, the use of woody debris piles for wildlife, and the installation of grassed waterways and buffers to control erosion.

In 2007, Mr. Walters participated in the Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) through the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife to install a shallow wildlife pond on his mother’s farm. He had the existing tile lines replaced and added a structure in the field so that it can be flooded with water at the proper time of year for waterfowl. 

Mr. Walters was selected as the 2004 Cooperator of the Year by the New Castle Conservation District Board of Supervisors. He is a member of the Nature Conservancy where he is involved in the Blackbird-Millington Corridor Project. He is also a member of the Delaware Farm Bureau.

  • Dolores A. Washam, Urban Environmental Center, Wilmington – Urban Award

Dolores Washam is one of the founders, president, and a volunteer worker at the Urban Environmental Center, a non-profit organization in the City of Wilmington. The Center’s mission is to create an awareness of the urban environment, both man-made and natural. Ms. Washam has served as volunteer manager and president for the past 11 years. The Center itself is a model for adaptive re-use as it formerly housed the Wilmington mounted police force.

The Center strives to teach adults and children the importance of making informed decisions that take into account the entire community. The Center has a Cooperative Extension Master Gardener demonstration garden, a butterfly garden, a shade garden and a rain garden. Ms. Washam teaches gardening, environmental subjects and pottery as needed at the Center. A special program is offered to high school students to help them become Urban Stewards and there is an internship program for two 12th grade students. These programs include classroom and hands-on experiences to help develop community decision making skills. The Center offers environmental education classes to preschool, charter school, home-school programs, to boy and girl scouts, as well as an after-school program.

Ms. Washam serves on the State of Delaware Natural Area Advisory Council and she has served on the DNREC Biodiversity Initiative. She also serves on the New Castle County Extension Advisory Council, is a New Castle County Master Gardener, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Delaware Center for Horticulture.


  • Busker Family Dairy, Harrington – Agricultural Award

Chuck and Charmayne Busker started a dairy in Harrington in the 1970s. With the help of their children, Phillip and Sarah, this once small dairy has grown to accommodate a herd of 200 Holstein cows, 100 of which are currently milking.

This past year the Buskers have completed a manure handling and storage facility that was comprised of the following components: two large liquid manure tanks, one reception pit, two pumping units, and a dry manure storage structure.  The Buskers utilized cost share provided by the Kent Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services’ (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).

The family tills 250 acres of forage and grain crops that they use as feed for their cows. They practice minimal tillage and no-till practices on all their cropland and have participated for many years in the cover crop program through the District. Their farms are also enrolled in NRCS’ Conservation Security Program.

The Buskers use an irrigation system to apply liquid manure on their cropland to reduce soil compaction and to distribute an even application. This irrigation system also improves agronomic timing and application and allows the manure to be better utilized as a nutrient which in turn saves on commercial fertilizer. They recently completed construction of a covered dry cow facility and installed two large heavy use protection areas and several smaller ones throughout the farm to aid in manure handling. 

Due to the family’s rich heritage in dairy farming, no additional training was needed to use the equipment necessary for the installed practices, so the only expense in addressing these issues was the capital costs for construction.

  • Joseph Petrosky, Dover – Urban Award

The Sonic Restaurant at the Gateway South Shopping Center on Route 10 in Dover was proposed in June 2006. The small lot, approximately 1.16 acres in size, would be converted from grass to largely impervious cover, posing many challenges in terms of the water quality runoff from the site. 

In a collaborative effort between the engineers, property owner Joseph Petrosky and the Kent Conservation District, a new concept was suggested for the project – the use of “Green Technology” in the form of two bio-retention cells (ponds). Bio-retention is a practice that is excellent for sites with high pollutant concentrations such as an impervious parking lot with car oils. The practice works by adding a special DNREC-approved bio media mix consisting of concrete sand, sphagnum peat moss and hardwood mulch to a retention pond to remove the pollutants.

At the time bio-retention was a relatively new, untested technology, but Mr. Petrosky made the decision to take a chance on the idea. The cost of constructing and obtaining the material for the facility was more than traditional practices. However, in the long term life of the facility, the benefits will outweigh the additional costs. 

The benefits of the project are numerous, including improved water quality, since the bio mix in the retention basin removes more pollutants from impervious areas than traditional practices. When achieving water quality requirements is a challenge, bio-retention addresses it easily with the bio mix. The result is cleaner, safer water leaving the site and an aesthetically pleasing facility. 

As state and federal water quality requirements become stricter, it’s important to have time to evaluate the effectiveness of the practices. Having a working example of bio-retention in the ground that is in such a publicly visible location is a valuable tool for the Conservation District to show other developers and engineers a working model and how it works.

For his willingness to try a green technology approach that involved additional costs to himself, the Kent Conservation District nominated Mr. Petrosky for this 2008 Governors Conservation Award.


  • Carlton Jones, C & J Farms, Seaford – Agricultural Award

Mr. Jones operates a 445-acre grain, poultry and beef operation near Seaford. Mr. Jones/C & J Farms has participated in many cost-share programs with the Sussex Conservation District and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service including cover crop and hay land management.

The poultry operation consists of 40,000 broilers and a small flock of free range laying hens. The cow/calf operation is totally grass fed. The cattle operation received cost-share through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for rotational grazing, three watering facilities, forage harvest management and 1,900 feet of fencing. Proper manure storage is handled by two waste structures. Mr. Jones has been approved through EQIP FY08 for six additional watering facilities, a solar pumping plant and 27,600 feet of additional fencing.

  • George, Miles and Buhr, Salisbury, Md. – Urban Award

The Sussex Conservation District’s (SCD) Sediment and Stormwater program staff have worked with the Salisbury branch of architectural/engineering design firm George, Miles and Buhr (GMB) for many years and have developed a good working relationship with the firm, which provides design and consulting services to municipalities, developers and local businesses. The high quality of all their Delaware plans and calculations are evident in their submittals and certified construction reviewer (CCR) inspections. 

The design engineers of GMB work closely with the Sediment and Stormwater staff throughout the various stages of plan design, including preliminary design and often throughout the detailed review process of the project. During 2007 the District received two Sediment and Stormwater plans that were approved after the first submittal, which does not happen too often.  The GMB office in Salisbury has also provided the District stormwater staff with training in a hydrology program called Pond Pack, and their staff is always available to share their expertise and experience. 

The SCD’s relationship with this office extends to the inspection side of the program, where their design engineers are available to meet in the field to answer technical questions. In addition, SCD staff has worked with GMB’s CCR Program, in which the firm inspects and submits regular reports on some of the largest projects in Sussex County. 

This award specifically recognizes GMB for stormwater management plans submitted to SCD.

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