Drew Stabler didn’t learn the importance of conservation
and sustainable farming so much as he absorbed it throughout
a lifetime and six decades of farming. His journey to
achieve sustainability earned Stabler recognition from the
National Corn Growers Association for Good Stewardship
during the 2016 Commodity Classic.
Stabler, of Laytonville, Maryland, is the third honoree in NCGA’s Good Steward Recognition Program which began in 2014. The program funding was provided by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation as part of their Harvesting the Potential campaign to raise awareness among U.S. farmers of the importance of conservation agriculture.
“This program is about expanding awareness of the best management practices in sustainable corn production. Our goal is to recognize the special efforts of those who demonstrate the economic and conservation value of soil management,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “Drew has shown a lifelong commitment to conservation practices and sustainable production that is remarkable. It is my privilege to honor him with this recognition. It's people like Drew who lead by example on their own farms and help make it possible for all Maryland farmers to continue to farm in the Chesapeake Bay watershed!”
Stabler owns and operates Sunny Ridge Farm, a grain and beef farm with his partners, Fred and David Lechlider in Montgomery County. He farms 1,800 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans and has 75 head of beef cattle.
“My dad was the extension agronomist for the University of Maryland, so he instilled in my brother and I the respect you had to have for the land and how you need to take care of it,” Stabler said. “That’s what we’ve always tried to do.”
Practices employed by Stabler include split nitrogen applications, contour farming, contour strip cropping, cover crops, grassed waterways, rotational grazing, filter strips, switchbacks and installation of spring-fed cattle troughs which have enabled him to install fencing to eliminate cattle contact with the nearby stream. He became a certified nutrient management planner so he can keep his nutrient management plan current.
“The Stabler Farm and the whole family have been conservationists from the beginning. Drew is really a pioneer and one of the early adopters of no-till farming starting in 1970, converting to completely no-till by 1985,” said Lynne Hoot, Executive Director of the Maryland Grain Producers Association. “The farm is located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which is a focal point for the national discussion on soil conservation and water quality. Drew has become a needed spokesperson for the industry.”
In addition to making significant improvements on his farm, Stabler is a leader in conservation outreach. He has hosted numerous tours and field days for local farmers, agribusinesses, and agency officials and legislative leaders.
“All the conservation practices we’ve done have rewarded us from the savings and conservation of soil or the good for the environment,” Stabler added. “I appreciate the recognition for our farm. It’s been a team effort.”
Click here for a video about Stabler's work and his farm.