Charlie and Kim Sytsma of Eighth Line Farm are the winners of this year’s Environmental Stewardship Award, sponsored by RBC Royal Bank and the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association (OCA). The Sytsmas run 220 Red Angus cow/calf pairs on their home farm and leased properties near Athens, Ontario, and were nominated for the award by Martin Streit of the Leeds County Stewardship Council, with support from the Charleston Lake Association (CLA) and the Township of Athens. The Award was presented today at the 2010 OCA Annual General Meeting by Sheila Smart of RBC Royal Bank.

The Sytsmas have been able to lease an extensive area of remote pasture lands and improve their productivity through the use of rotational grazing systems. Over 1.5 kilometres of riparian shoreline habitat has been restored and 480 cattle have been removed from the stream as a result of their actions.

“Charlie and Kim have worked long and hard with the Leeds County Stewardship Council to restore the portions of Elbe creek, which runs through their farms,” reports Streit. “They have influenced the improvement of the environmental practices of many farmers through their own actions, hosting tours, giving presentations and word of mouth. Moreover, they have influenced many other farmers to participate in similar projects, resulting in a vast improvement in the condition of Elbe creek.”

Cattle are watered using a total of five solar watering systems, which has allowed marginal agricultural lands to be kept in production. The Sytsmas have also constructed over three kilometres of cattle-exclusion fencing to protect a primary source of water for Charleston Lake. The lake boasts the most southerly self-reproducing lake trout population in Ontario.

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“Kim and Charlie Sytsma are shining examples of how through cooperative efforts real, meaningful environmental improvements can be implemented,” says Bill Hallam, president of the CLA. “The CLA has recognized that in order to keep Charleston Lake healthy, a number of steps had to be taken and (therefore) developed the Charleston Lake Management Plan, one of the first in Ontario. Kim and Charlie were one of the first area farmers to get involved in what we refer to as the Stream Rehabilitation Program. They are outspoken supporters of this program and have hosted many organizations including the CLA to demonstrate what can be accomplished through cooperative measures.”

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