The farm owners, Kathe and George Allen have adopted and maintain environmental stewardship practices designed to benefit the animals, environment, and community. The Allen's have dedicated their lives to providing the very best care for their horses and show the same level of commitment in caring for the land.
George and Kathe have an extensive history with horses. Kathe began riding at 4 years of age on her father's 150 acre farm in Upper Mount Bethel, Northampton County, PA. George became involved with horses while working at Cook College, Rutgers University. This interest led to the purchase of a small farm in Northampton County where they kept three horses.
Work eventually caused them to relocate to Allentown, PA, where they lived in a development and kept their horses at Boots & Saddle Riding club in Lehigh County. One of their horses, Swedish Blend, a rescue horse from the New Holland Sale, won under saddle class at the Hampton Classic and competed at the National Horse Show.
Work eventually relocated the pair to Chester County where they purchased a small 3 acre farm in Oxford and began breeding horses. They were hooked on producing their own foals, when one of their homebreds won classes at large shows, including Devon and Radnor. Another of their horses, Sequoia, won ladies side saddle hunter classes at Devon, Harrisburg and the National Horse Show in New York City.
The increase in horse population required more land and once again they decided to relocate - this time to a 10 acre, horse farm in East Nottingham, Chester County, PA. The farm was named August Moon Farm, symbolic of change and transition. Driving horses became their new passion. George states that supposedly driving is a gentler and kinder sport for aged humans with aches and pains that come from a life with horses. Today their barns are filled with a large Animal Projection Service (LAPS) rescue horse, and a retired Standardbred gelding and mare. Their other stalls are occupied by their retired show horses and off spring from their broodmares that became too special to part with.
The Allens are dedicated care takers of their horses and the land that supports them. As George explains, they now have 6 acres of pasture and 300 cubic yards of manure/bedding to deal with. As their horse population increased, the couple tirelessly worked to become good stewards of their land. They learned about wetlands and riparian stream corridors from representative of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Chester County Conservation District, who were working with a development adjacent to their farm. They moved their pasture fences to allow more space for riparian buffer, to protect the stream that skirted their property. They spent many hours reading articles produces by Penn State Extension, learning about pasture grasses, hay, soil fertility, no-till seeding, and composting. They tested their soil, added the recommended lime and other nutrients, seeded orchard grass in their newly designated pasture/hay fields, planted blue grass in their turn outs and waited for results. If only it were so simple. The first winter conditions wiped out most of the blue grass and a large portion of the orchard grass. There was so much more to learn.
The Allen's participated in the Penn State Extension Equine Environmental Stewardship Short Course. Recorded on-line webinars became a weekly event as they discovered a wealth of presentations on all kinds of animal care, forage management and land stewardship. George states that without question their ability to do all of these improvements so quickly is a direct result of Penn State Extension seminars and webinars along with access to knowledgeable agricultural extension specialists.
August Moon land utilization now consists of 4 acres of hay and grazing pasture that routinely supplies grazing and 16 tons of hay. George reports that soil testing and applying nutrients based on the recommendations really does work. The Allen's have two turnouts for the horses that are approximately one acre in size. The couple works hard to maintain high quality pastures by restricting horse access when conditions are not conducive to the growth of the pasture grasses. This supplies ample time for the grasses to rest and regrow and prevent overgrazing. They also utilize a sacrifice turnout for bad weather days. One additional pasture is now used for a heifer turnout during the summer.
The farm confronted a special challenge, when due to special health needs of several of the horses; they transitioned from straw to pellets/shavings as bedding. When the horses were bedded on straw, the manure was picked up monthly and they were paid for the manure resource. When the manure was mixed with wood shavings, they were faced with a manure pile that nobody wanted and now have to pay for removal. The manure pit had been constructed for straw usage and when they started to use pellets/shavings, the manure pit quickly became a mud pit. The pit had to be graded and a hard surface installed for George's utilization of his front end loader. This hard surface additionally serves to protect the ground water. Vegetation around the manure storage absorbs the nutrients and prevents run-off.
George states that he is fortunate to live near Amish farmers, who bale the hay and rent the heifer field. His Amish neighbors agreed to take the manure, but the manure had to be stored for 6 months. George states that he soon learned that composting shrunk the size of the pile, eliminated the odors and didn't breed flies. They continue to experiment with composting and are still learning what does and does not work.
The Allen's transition in life to managing young horses and their aging and special needs equines led them to experiment, learn and implement environmentally friendly ways to deal with soil, pastures, hay, turnouts and manure management. They state that restorations led to a better farm for care of their equines and land renovations brought improved water quality, by enhancing riparian buffers and attracting habitat for local wildlife.
The Environmentally Friendly Farm program, which is supported by funds from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) - Conservation Innovation Grant, has been designed to provide recognition for farms that adopt environmentally sound management practices that protect water quality and the environment.
All commercial and non-commercial livestock and equine operations, large and small, are eligible to apply for the program. Participants in the program will benefit by engaging in an ongoing partnership with representatives of Penn State Extension and other agencies that provide on-farm education and individual assistance.
Applicants complete a farm assessment checklist, which consist of a series of statements that identify potential on-farm practices that farmers adopt to protect the environment. Once the paperwork has been received, a farm site visit will be scheduled. A representative from Penn State Extension, the county Conservation District, or the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will visit farms to verify that statements made in the application and checklists are accurate. At the same time, additional information and assistance can be provided to help improve farm management and develop appropriate renovations for the farm.
Participants interested in the program can contact Donna Foulk at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Penn State Extension website.