Mardy Townsend, president of the Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Farmers Union was awarded the 2013 Stewardship Award by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association this past weekend.
The announcement was made on February 16 as part of OEFFA’s 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change. The Stewardship Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the cultivation of sustainable agriculture.
Townsend raises grass-fed beef cattle at Marshy Meadows Farm in Ashtabula County, near Windsor, Ohio. Portions of the 226 acre farm has been in the Townsend family since 1972 but it wasn’t until 1993 that she transitioned to grass farming to better suit the farm’s wet, erodible land conditions and the area’s long, cold winters. Marshy Meadow Farm’s land has been certified organic through OEFFA since 1996 and the beef herd is in transition to organic.
Townsend graduated from Wilmington College in 1978 with a degree in animal science and biology and received a master’s degree in agronomy from Ohio State University in 1997. She was a horticulture agent at the OSU Extension Geauga County office from 1994 to 1996.
In 2000, 175 acres of the farm were put into a permanent conservation easement held by the Ashtabula County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. In 2002, Mardy and her mother Marge received the Outstanding Cooperator Award from the Ashtabula County SWCD. The farm is also enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Security Program.
Townsend has served on the OEFFA Board, along with two stints on the North Central-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program Technical Review Committee. She is a founding member of OEFFA’s Lake Effect Chapter and has hosted several OEFFA farm tours. She has become increasingly active in environmental issues related to fracking.
“With almost 20 years of farming experience on her family’s farm in northeast Ohio, Mardy has developed a successful, sustainable, and organic model for grass-fed beef production,” said Molly Bartlett, a 2007 recipient of the Stewardship Award, who nominated Townsend. “A natural steward, Mardy’s keen affection for her animals and the land and wise knowledge of her farm have guided her holistic management practices.”
“Mardy’s contributions to sustainable agriculture go beyond her farm. She is not only active in both OEFFA and the Ohio Farmers Union, but she has been involved in her community and drawing attention to the problems associated with fracking,” said Mick Luber, who shared the 2007 Stewardship Award with Bartlett and presented the award to Townsend at the Saturday evening ceremony.