Protecting Oxford County’s Natural Environment

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Oxford County recognizes two finalists for annual stewardship award

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CARLA GARRETT

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SPECIAL TO SENTINEL MAGAZINE

Each year, the Oxford County Stewardship Award is presented to an Oxford County landowner who makes voluntary efforts to help protect the quality of the county’s natural environment.

Recognizing landowners through this award is just one of the many ways Oxford County has chosen to demonstrate its commitment to protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

The finalists are selected each year from the projects supported by the Water Sanitation Program. The Clean Water Program is a county-backed initiative that provides financial and technical support to landowners seeking to undertake projects to protect the natural environment. This year’s nominees are Gerard Pynenburg and Jeff Tribe.

The winner was recognized at a special county council presentation night on Wednesday evening.

Gerard Pynenburg, Princeton: “We are doing our part” as stewards of the ground

Few things are more valuable to a farmer than his land. It is their lifelong work and, for many, like Gerard Pynenburg, it is like a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation.

“As farmers and keepers of the soil, we try to do everything possible to limit our impact on the environment in order to make our farm more viable and usable for generations to come,” said the father of two young boys. .

And as the current landowner, Pynenburg believes he needs to restore the soil to the same or better shape than when it received it.

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“You can never get dirt back, so you go out of your way to keep it out,” Pynenburg said.

Since 1979 his family has undertaken multiple projects to preserve the precious soil on their hilly area adjacent to a creek that flows into the River Nith along Blenheim Road near Princeton. Although they already used no-till practices on their soybean and wheat crops, the fields resembling ski slopes were still prone to erosion.

Gerard Pynenburg has undertaken several projects to protect the soil on his farm in the Blandford-Blenheim area.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
Gerard Pynenburg has undertaken several projects to protect the soil on his farm in the Blandford-Blenheim area. SUBMITTED PHOTO jpg, DEO

Over the past eight years, on three properties, 10 berms, or erosion control structures, have been built to prevent leaching and ultimately keep soil on their land. The grassy islands slow the flow of water and trap the nutrient-rich soil before it is washed downstream and into the creek. Last spring, Pynenburg said berms were preventing trucks of dirt – about two feet of topsoil – from entering the creek and its tributaries.

“We’re in this world together, so it’s about finding harmony here with our surroundings and that’s one way for me to help a fish,” said Pynenburg, adding that the sediment would often make the stream cloudy. “No kid would want to play in this.”

His investment has also restored old ravines to productive land that he can now cross with his equipment in a single pass, requiring less use of fertilizers and pesticides. It also plants cover crops, such as oats and red clover, after the wheat harvest to further increase infiltration and reduce surface runoff.

Pynenburg is grateful for the support of the Ontario Soil and Crop Association and the Grand River Conservation Authority in cost-sharing these projects to protect his family’s farm.

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“I do my best personally and locally to ensure the sustainability and profitability of our farmland for a long time. “

Jeff Tribe and his family pose in front of a shed on their 90-acre family farm.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
Jeff Tribe and his family pose in front of a shed on their 90-acre family farm. SUBMITTED PHOTO jpg, DEO

Jeff Tribe, Burgessville: Wetland honors parents’ love of nature

What started as a simple idea to attract more ducks to the 90-acre Tribe Farm in Burgessville last spring quickly turned into a large-scale project to support the environment and more.

“We really wanted more ducks in the area, but I thought I would see if we could do more,” said Jeff Tribe, owner of the fourth generation farm in Norwich Township.

With just one call to Ducks Unlimited and their continued logistical and financial support, Tribe has created a thriving wetland on previously grazed farmland. The project involved digging an interconnected 1.4 acre wetland with two major and several smaller aquatic features supported by 8.9 acres of upland habitat.

With its swamp qualities, the wetland is like a giant sponge during floods and a reservoir during droughts. Lush vegetation and even dead vegetation absorb water and slow the movement of water to surrounding areas. The project also included the planting of mixed native trees.

“It is a healthier ecosystem and a richer biodiversity entity,” Tribe said. “When I watch it from my porch, it makes me feel good – it’s beautiful. “

The marsh-like wetland that was built on the tribe's farm in Norwich Township.PHOTO SUBMITTED
The marsh-like wetland that was built on the tribe’s farm in Norwich Township.PHOTO SUBMITTED jpg, DEO

But what’s even more beautiful is how the project honors and anchors the natural heritage of the Tribe family. Tribe said the wetland is a memorial to his late parents, Harry and Jessie Tribe.

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“They were old farmers with great respect and love for nature,” Tribe said, adding that they appreciated all that was natural, with a healthy respect for the inherent character of the land.

His father was a tree planter, improving their timber through selective logging and proven management of the property. He fondly remembers the Mother’s Day picnics in these woods.

Tribe is honored to be recognized as part of this like-minded group of people with respect for the environment and sustainability, especially in the context of climate change. But he adds that none of this would have been possible without Phil Holst of Ducks Unlimited who opened the doors to a range of organizations who were all involved in this project.

If you are considering a project like this, Tribe said “do it, because maybe you too can do more.” “

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