Swollen from recent rains, the wetlands of the Kuhn Family Orchard shimmers with life.
The 65-acre Cashtown farm was chosen as the premier example of conservation spending under the recently restored Farm Bill.
The occasion warranted a visit by the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“I found out Tuesday evening!” said 5th generation farmer Sidney Kuhn of the secretary’s surprise visit.
“This is an effort that combines our wetlands effort and our easement and preservation efforts into a single program,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack says the implementation program will put $366 million up for grabs for states, municipalities and landowners.
“It takes resilience, but it also takes a willingness to see the future and to be willing to transform,” he said.
An example of that is inside a “high tunnel” constructed on the Kuhn farm with help from USDA funding. The structure, which looks like a greenhouse, allows for a longer growing season.
The family is also enrolled in the wetland preservation program that helped establish two man-made lakes on their property. Both now serve as wetland breeding for waterfowl and can never be developed.
“The only income they had that year was to sell off 10 lots by the Franklin Township school. It was a way to make it through the year,” said Kuhn of a year when frost wiped out their entire livelihood.
Incentives introduced as part of the Farm Bill would work to protect farmers from having to make that kind of decision.
Sidney and and her husband said they hope the USDA can continue to help make farming feasible for young families.