Maryland Farm Bureau Family Wins First Leopold Award in the State

Erin Anthony

Director, Communications

Persistence Creek Farm of Maryland has been selected as the recipient of the inaugural Maryland Leopold Conservation Award®. The award is given to farmers, ranchers and forestland owners across the U.S. in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold.

Kevin and Lauren Warring’s Persistence Creek Farm is a grain, seafood and timber business in Charles County, in the southern part of the state. The Warrings were presented with the $10,000 award at the Maryland Farm Bureau’s Annual Convention in Cambridge on Dec. 6.

“The diversity of conservation and production practices on the Warrings’ farm elevates the sustainability conversation,” said John Torres, Maryland Farm Bureau executive director. “Not only are they protecting the land and waterways, but with the various things they produce (grain, seafood and timber), it harkens back to a time when many had to produce whatever they needed to sustain themselves. The Warrings, who we are proud to call longtime members, are helping to meet the needs of themselves and others, all while protecting our vital natural resources for future generations to do the same.”

Maryland Farm Bureau partnered with Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment and Maryland Association of Conservation Districts to present the award.

Persistence Creek Farm

When Kevin and Lauren Warring bought their farm in 2009, they set out to leave it better than they found it. Their Persistence Creek Farm has become a confluence of how farming, fishing and forestry can benefit natural resources.

The Warrings take soil seriously. They annually rotate crops of corn, soybeans and sorghum to sustain soil fertility. They use no-till or minimum tillage on all fields to reduce run-off. Cover crops are planted on all fields to protect soil microorganisms. Nutrient management plans and annual soil tests minimize fertilizer inputs and maximize yields because the nutrient delivery is tailored to the crop’s needs.

“The management decisions farmers make daily not only impact our food supply, but our environment,” said Samantha Campbell, president of the Campbell Foundation. “Farmers are essential partners who are too often not commended for the stewardship they provide. We are very pleased to present this award to the Warring family in recognition of their leadership in both agricultural production and advancing practices that benefit the natural world.”

To enhance wildlife habitat and maintain productive forests, the Warrings have utilized financial assistance from the federal Conservation Stewardship Program and technical guidance from a forester from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Following a custom forestry plan has increased timber growth rates for future harvests, while boosting biodiversity and providing wildlife with food and cover.

Acres of shrubs and maple, pine and oak trees have been planted to reduce streambank erosion. Riparian herbaceous buffers that stretch 50 feet on each side of Ross Branch stream capture nutrients from crop fields, improve water quality and provide nesting habitat for wildlife.

Two acres of ponds and wetlands provide habitat for frogs, ducks and deer. Food plots of white clover, sunflowers, corn and soybeans are planted annually. A self-described “flower geek,” Kevin has planted 5 acres of wildflowers and native grasses in prairie strips to attract Monarch butterflies and other insect pollinators.

A stream crossing project involved re-sloping banks and installing concrete footers and riprap to reduce erosion. The long-term health of the Potomac and Wicomico rivers has been improved by the more than 100 million baby oysters the Warrings have helped plant since 2014.

Kevin and his father, Francis, are both active members of the Charles County Waterman’s Association, which provides public and legislative outreach on fishery regulations. Both have served as associate supervisors for the Charles Soil Conservation District. Francis farms with Kevin’s mom, Joyce, just 10 miles from Persistence Creek Farm.

Persistence Creek Farm’s enrollment into a perpetual conservation easement permanently preserves its future use for agriculture and forestry and limits housing or mining development.

Kevin, who has degrees in physics and economics, helped re-establish an FFA chapter in Charles County. The active Farm Bureau member has hosted farm tours for schools and legislators and appeared on a national conservation-themed podcast.

Kevin also serves as a guide for youth hunting deer, turkey and waterfowl. He shows these hunters and their parents how conservation practices benefit wildlife.

Kevin says the day he and Lauren signed the farm’s deed was a dream come true. Yet he’s quick to note they are just temporary caretakers. He says visible reminders of this are the arrowheads their children frequently find buried across the fields of Persistence Creek Farm.

Leopold Conservation Award

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to farmers, ranchers and forestland owners in 23 states for land, water and wildlife habitat management.

Earlier this year, Maryland landowners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the Leopold Conservation Award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.

Among the outstanding Maryland landowners nominated for the award were finalists Ordinary Point Farm in Cecil County, Persimmon Tree Farm in Carroll County, and Rich Levels Grain Inc. in Cecil and Kent counties.

The Maryland Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Maryland Association of Conservation Districts, Maryland Farm Bureau Inc., Sand County Foundation, Maryland Department of Agriculture, Farm Credit, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Delmarva Chicken Association, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Conservancy, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, ShoreRivers and The Nature Conservancy.