The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has named the 2013 recipients for the Stewardship Award and Service Award. Mardy Townsend of Marshy Meadow Farm in Ashtabula County received the Stewardship Award, and Rev. Charles Frye of Ashland County received the Service Award.
The announcements were made on Saturday, 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 and the Service Award recognizes outstanding service in support of sustainable agriculture.
2013 Stewardship Award Winner-Mardy Townsend
Mardy Townsend raises grass-fed beef cattle at Marshy Meadows Farm in Ashtabula County, near Windsor, Ohio. Portions of the 226 acre farm have 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, Townsend 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.
2013 Service Award Winner-Rev. Charles Frye
Charles Frye served on the OEFFA Board for more than 30 years and has held both the president and vice president offices. Frye is a retired United Methodist Church pastor who served local churches for 37 years. Frye began his involvement with OEFFA after spending seven years of his ministry life involved with the Rural-Urban Gardening Project, creating community gardens by encouraging collaborations between diverse communities. He and his wife, Nancy Hull, live on 40 acres in Ashland County, which includes a garden and 40 heirloom fruit trees, blueberries, and asparagus plants.
Frye and his wife are the parents of a blended family with nine living children and 14 grandchildren. He received his bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology from Kent State University in 1955 and a master's in theological studies from Perkins School of Theology in 1958.
"I cannot think of a person more deserving of this award than Charlie. His work in the areas of sustainable and organic agriculture, grower support, and farm worker advocacy, along with his efforts to get good, wholesome food to all people, have been major contributors to the advancements we have made over the last 30 years," said Mike Laughlin, the 2010 recipient of the Stewardship Award, who presented the award to Frye.
Frye is the first recipient of the Service Award, which was created in 2013 to recognize outstanding service in support of sustainable agriculture.
"Both Mardy and Charlie care deeply about creating a sustainable food system. We should all be sincerely grateful for what they have done to advance sustainable agriculture in our community," said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland.