Environmental Stewardship is all in the Family

posted on December 3, 2012 4:00pm

For Lansing-area farmer Scott Lonier, working the fields in an environmentally friendly manner is a matter of family pride.

Scott and his brother Steve continue to work with their father Jim, representing the fifth generation of Loniers to tend numerous mid-Michigan fields at Shady Lodge Farm, LLC.

The Lonier family has farmed in the Grand Ledge-DeWitt-Lansing area since 1876, and while the farm’s size has changed over the last century, the family’s commitment to growing crops while being good stewards of the environment hasn’t.

Scott, Steve and Jim currently farm nearly 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans throughout the Lansing area. Living in an urban/suburban area, they recognized early how important it was to be environmentally conscious. As a result, they worked to become verified in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). MAEAP is a voluntary program that helps farmers identify and implement new ways to protect the environment.

Scott has found his family’s MAEAP verification extremely valuable, not only in keeping his own farm sustainable but also when working with landowners to farm their properties.

“We take great pride in being MAEAP verified,” Scott said. “My hopes would be that people see the MAEAP sign in my front yard, stop by and say ‘I want you to farm my ground, because I know you’re going to do it right.’ I hope it means as much to others as it does to us. As a state, we’re very environmentally conscious and I think our MAEAP verification proves that.”

The environmentally conscious practices put in place at Shady Lodge Farm are numerous. The Loniers invested in double-walled fuel tanks and secondary containment for fertilizer, both of which help protect against leaks or spills to reduce water pollution risk. They transitioned from traditional tillage practices to no-till and reduced tillage, which means they work the soil as little as possible in order to prevent soil erosion. They also implemented buffer strips (strips of vegetation near waterways) as a way to reduce soil erosion and water pollution.

“We started doing buffer strips years and years ago, before there was ever an incentive to do it, because we knew it was better for our farm and the environment,” Scott said.

Scott is optimistic about what’s in store for his farm and community in years to come. While his farm’s fate was cloudy a few years ago due to an increase in housing developments and urban sprawl, he is now working with developers and new homeowners to see how they can partner to keep agricultural production in the area.

“There are people moving into the area who want a house and ten acres, but only really want to mow one of those acres,” he said. “That’s part of why we thought MAEAP verification was the right thing to do, because we can build strong relationships with our neighbors since they know their land can be farmed in a way that’s good for the environment.”

Scott said his favorite part of farming is getting to see the results of his hard work at the end of the growing season, although he admits that a large amount of patience is needed. He hopes that farmers and non-farmers alike continue to work together to learn where food comes from and recognize that farming is not just about the end product at the grocery store.

“Somewhere down the line, there has to be a person who produces that food for the grocery store,” he said.