Winners of the government’s 2024 Agricultural, Urban Conservation Award will be honoured

A ceremony today marked the annual Governor’s Agricultural and Urban Conservation Awards. DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, Delaware Association of Conservation Districts President Gwen Pierce and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Jena Moore led a ceremony recognizing this year’s honorees and signed a proclamation officially designating them (photo by Delaware Association of Conservation Districts)

DOVER, Del. – A ceremony today marked the annual Governor’s Agricultural and Urban Conservation Awards. DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, Delaware Association of Conservation Districts President Gwen Pierce, and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist Jena Moore, led a ceremony recognizing this year’s honorees and signed a proclamation declaring April 28 – May 5 was officially designated as Stewardship Week in Delaware under the theme: “May the Forest Be With You Always.”

“Stewardship Week helps remind us all of the power every person has to conserve natural resources and improve our world.” said Pierce, “The Stewardship concept embraces personal and social responsibility, including the obligation to learn and improve natural resources while using them wisely, and leaving a rich legacy for future generations.”

“Conservation is a collective effort,” says Pierce. “Forests are an essential part of our work area, and the collective efforts of our employees and our organizations are joining forces to protect the natural resources we depend on and use every day.”

This year’s agricultural honorees include Thompson Farms, a Kent County farm dedicated to preserving their grain and poultry operations, Richard Swartzentruber, a Sussex County organic farmer with a passion for sustainable farming practices and giving back, and Rick Mickowski , a longtime employee of the New Castle Conservation District. member who has focused on protecting the environment while providing services that build the local community.

The recipients of the Urban Preservation Award demonstrate innovation and exceptional community service. Robert Palmer, PE, Beacon Engineering’s design demonstrates an innovative approach to stormwater management using a hybrid Submerged Gravel and Ephemeral Wetland facility. In Sussex County, Carl M. Freeman Companies and the Tower Hill Community were recognized as an example of thoughtful and purposeful conservation; Their project will become a model for other communities in Sussex County and the state. New Castle County recognizes the Brandywine Falls Roadway Stabilization Project for improving stormwater runoff management and eliminating erosion of the steep slopes that ultimately flow into the Brandywine River. the main source of drinking water for the city of Wilmington.

“Today’s recipients are working with Delaware’s conservation partners to implement innovative and comprehensive conservation practices on their farms and in their businesses and projects.” said Pierce. “Delaware is fortunate to have a wonderful partnership between the Delaware Conservation Districts, DNREC and NRCS, who provide invaluable support to our employees. These awards highlight the beneficial results of these relationships, and we would like to take a moment to recognize the hard work that has been done.”

Senator Nicole Poore was recognized as DACD’s Legislator of the Year. Senator Poore does has consistently supported Conservation Districts, tax ditch organizations and best agricultural practices during her 12 years in the Senate. She and her fellow Bond Committee members approved increases in funding the conservation cost-sharing program, Resource Conservation and Development program, additional tax relief assistance, and an enhanced cover crop cost-sharing program the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission.

Senator Poore is an advocate for the needs of her constituents; she contributed CTF funding 69 RC&D projects during her tenure in the Senate. These projects vary in size from small to individual backyard drainage improvement projects to projects with six-figure price tags. She always drives a negotiates hard on behalf of its constituents and never settles for anything less than your best and most cost-effective, creative project recommendations.

Delaware’s Conservation Districts, one in each county, form a unique governmental unit in partnership with DNREC. Their mission is to provide technical and financial assistance to help Delawareans conserve and enhance their local natural resources, including solving land, water and related resource problems; developing conservation programs to solve these problems; enlisting and coordinating assistance from public and private sources to achieve these goals; and increasing awareness of the interrelationship between human activities and the natural environment. Delaware’s district supervisors have a statewide organization, the Delaware Association of Conservation Districts (DACD), a voluntary, non-profit alliance that provides a forum for discussion and coordination among Conservation Districts.

Additional details for this year’s Conservation Award winners:


AGRICULTURE: Rick Mickowski

Rick Mickowski began his career in conservation in June 1975. After graduating from William Penn High School, Rick joined a summer youth conservation program at Lewden Greene Park, where he spent five summers with the youth conservation program in the New Castle County Parks. Rick graduated from Abilene Christian University in 1979 with a BS in Agronomy and a Minor in Range Management. Rick joined NCCD in 1980, where he focused on the load discharge program and drainage studies. In 1986, Rick’s role expanded to include educational activities. Rick has been involved in many professional organizations over the years and has received multiple awards and recognitions for his contributions to conservation and to the community.

URBAN: Brandywine Falls roadway stabilization project

Stormwater runoff had damaged the retaining wall that stabilizes Brandywine Falls Road, the only access to the community. The job site had limited access to the contractor and the work area was tight, making project logistics critical to the success of the project. Due to the limited disturbance area, there was minimal storage of materials on the project. The precast culvert, stone and bond were placed when they arrived at the site. In addition, the contractor removed the retaining wall and trucked the materials while the materials were being excavated, minimizing contaminated runoff and erosion of the site.



Thompson Farm LLC began as a mixed livestock operation in the early 1900s. They have had many activities over the years including dairy, poultry and crop production. Nowadays they are more focused on grain crops and poultry, but also on the repair and restoration of agricultural machinery. Thompson Farm LLC also employs no-till practices in some of their fields and has participated in soil health challenges such as the “Soil Your Undies” campaign. They also pride themselves on having a close relationship with local and foreign farmers and having a positive impact on the local economy. In 2016, they received the Delaware Century Farm award.

URBAN: Robert Palmer, PE, Beacon Engineering

The Chicks Warehouse Expansion project will be located in Harrington, Delaware and is designed by Robert Palmer, PE at Beacon Engineering. Mr. Palmer’s expertise was critical in addressing challenging site constraints, including poor soil conditions, location within the Kent County Groundwater Recharge Zone and the Jackson’s Tax Ditch.

Due to its location within the groundwater recharge zone, the project could not use a typical stormwater management approach and only had to consider practices that provided a hydrogeological benefit. Mr. Palmer’s versatile design uses a submerged gravel wetland that flows into an ephemeral wetland that eventually flows into the Jackson’s Tax Ditch. The Submerged Gravel Wetlands (SGW) treat stormwater runoff primarily through filtration, sedimentation, physical and chemical sorption, microbial-mediated transformation, uptake, and attenuation. The ephemeral wetland plays an important role in maintaining water quality, controlling erosion and providing a unique habitat that supports a wide range of plant and animal species. This environmentally conscious design not only exceeds industry standards, but is also a testament to Mr. Palmer’s commitment to environmental conservation and engineering excellence.


AGRICULTURE: Richard Swartzentruber- Swartzentruber Homestead

Richard Swartzentruber of Greenwood is a humble fourth-generation farmer with an unwavering commitment to giving back. The farm, Swartzentruber Homestead, has been in the family for more than 105 years. Located just over a mile from the Kent/Sussex County line, in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the facility covers nearly 500 acres of cropland, with 60,000 organic broiler chickens and 50 Wye Angus beef cattle grazing on organic pastures.

As an organic farmer, Swartzentruber must be proactive in his operations, scouting from the ground up and anticipating the needs of crops, soil and animals. Without the same tools as his colleagues, synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, he finds creative ways to manage his business, such as grazing cattle on ground covers planted in the forest or using the weed zapper, a tractor-mounted generator of 10,000 volts to kill weeds growing over a crop. canopy.

URBAN: Carl M. Freeman Companies-Tower Hill Community

Located off New Road just under two miles from Historic Lewes, the Tower Hill community consists of 292 single-family homes covering approximately 135 acres in the Delaware Bay watershed. Stormwater management at Tower Hill includes 13 wet ponds, two dry basins, approximately 60 hectares of open space and nine hectares of woodland. This community is unique

being the first of its size in Sussex County where pasture planting and seeding will begin during the site construction phase. Carl M. Freeman Companies expects to seed nearly 30 acres of native wildflowers and grasses, representing nearly half of the entire open space within the community.

Karel. Recognizing the benefits of native plants over turf grasses, M. Freeman Companies is committed to changing open space design, starting with Tower Hill. The project was a statewide collaboration with the Sussex Conservation District and the University of Delaware.

–Jennifer Nelson, Delaware Association of Conservation Districts