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Land Management

Bednarskis earn conservation
award for farm practices

They own, operate Sherwood Acres
Beef farm near La Grange

LA GRANGE, Ky. (December 2013) – Jon Bednarski has always felt a deep connection to the land. A sense of stewardship and use of innovative farming methods have placed him at the forefront of conservation efforts within the state of Kentucky.
Jon and his wife, Sylvia, were recently selected from 19 applicants as the inaugural winners of the Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award, presented by the Kentucky Agriculture Council. The Bednarskis own Sherwood Acres Beef LLC in La Grange, where they raise Belted Galloway cattle.
Bednarski moved from Vermont to Kentucky in 1980, settling in Goshen. He married his wife and they lived in Jefferson County a few years before moving to Oldham County, where they have lived for the last 30 years.

Jon Bednarski

Photo provided

Dr. Stanley Temple presents the Kentucky Leopold Conservation Award to Jon and Sylvia Bednarski of La Grange, Ky., at the Kentucky Agriculture Council Summit, held Nov. 14-15 in Louisville. The award is given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold and recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation.

The award honors Kentucky landowner achievement in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources. The 19 applicants were narrowed down to three finalists. In addition to the Bednarskis, the other finalists were Don and Meredith Halcomb of Adairville; and Todd Clark of Lexington.
“The other two applicants were tremendous applicants,” said Bednarski. “Todd Clark does things similar to me, and the Halcombs run a 3,000-acre farm that has been in their family since the 1800s.”
Applicants for this award can be nominated by others or apply themselves. Bednarski chose the latter method for the lengthy application and answered eight questions in conjunction with Kurt Mason, the Oldham County District Conservationist.
“Kurt knows the farm and the improvements we’ve made to it,” said Bednarski. “He has helped me tremendously.”
The Kentucky Agricultural Council teamed with the Sand County Foundation, located in Wisconsin, to present the award. This is the first time the award has been given out in a state east of the Mississippi.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the $10,000 Leopold Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. It inspires other landowners through these examples and provides a visible forum where farmers, ranchers and other private landowners are recognized as conservation leaders.
“Leopold was an environmentalist in the 1920s and 1930s,” Bednarski said. “He was way ahead of his time” in creating an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.
While growing up on a farm in Vermont, Bednarski showed dairy cattle. “I always had the thought lingering in the back of my mind that I wanted to get back into the rural lifestyle.”
When the couple purchased their 35 acres in Oldham County, “it reminded me of Vermont. It was hilly, had woods and Harrod’s Creek started in the back of it.” He owns an adjoining 15 acres, which actually lies in Henry County, and a 100-acre farm outside of New Castle.
His wife and children bought Bednarski some Belted Galloway cattle for Father’s Day one year, and he became hooked on the breed. He grew the herd and began direct marketing beef in 2005 at the local farmers market.
Bednarksi’s wife helps maintain the Oldham County property by mowing eight acres, landscaping, helping with the cattle and working with their two horses, and runs the social media side of Sherwood Acres Beef LLC.
A teacher for 34 years, Sylvia worked with the Gifted and Talented Program and pushed conservation through essay and art. Winning this award has been “really important to me,” she said. “Doing what is best on the farm” has always been their goal.
She still has the conservation paper she wrote in fourth grade and has always tried to “do what’s best for the environment.”
Bednarski said that 40 to 50 percent of his application “was based on what I did and the practices I used on the farm.” The couple plans to use the $10,000 award money for fencing and to install a water system at their Henry County farm.
They were given the award on Nov. 14 at the 2013 Kentucky Agricultural Summit held in Louisville. Former National Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White was the keynote speaker for the summit.
Earlier in the year, Bednarski was chosen as the state’s Master Conservationist. This award was “the top of the ladder. It’s like winning the Nobel Peace Prize in conservation,” he said.
Bednarski takes to heart a quote from Leopold: “A farm is a portrait of its owner.”

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