The New Castle Conservation District Board of Supervisors recognized Bill Alfree as the 2015 Cooperator of the Year for outstanding conservation practices used in farm operations during an awards ceremony May 19.

The New Castle Conservation District Board of Supervisors recognized Bill Alfree as the 2015 Cooperator of the Year for outstanding conservation practices used in farm operations during an awards ceremony May 19.

Alfree has been farming his entire life and believes it is important to be a good conservationist. Bill’s father worked with a professor at the University of Delaware, and his father’s farm was used for research by the university in the 1950s and early ‘60s. Alfree said he believes that being a good steward of the land means protecting the soil and protecting water quality by keeping water run-off out of local rivers and ponds.

Alfree currently farms 1,700 acres — 200 that he owns and 1,500 acres that he rents. Several of the farms he rents around St. Andrews School, St. Anne’s School and the Appoquinimink School District are considered highly erodible.

Alfree practices no-till farming and turbo tilling, which is light tillage. Most of his ground is farmed with a rotation of corn, wheat and soybeans. Much of it is not irrigated except for some irrigated corn and soybeans on the Lewis farm. He also grows 100 acres of an alfalfa and orchard grass mixture for hay which he markets to area horse owners. Alfree rented the district’s no-till drill to seed in the orchard grass. This spring he planted teff in some fields. It is a warm-season annual grass that makes high-protein, soft-textured hay for horses.

Over the years, Alfree has installed several conservation practices such as grassed waterways and filter strips to control soil erosion and protect water quality and grassed waterways, berms and drop structures to repair several gullies. He uses poultry litter as a fertilizer and soil additive.

Alfree believes that his stewardship over the past several years has made a difference in the quality of the soil, preventing soil erosion and protecting Noxontown Pond.