Ben Alyea of Williamsburg received the 2022 River Friendly Farmer Award. Pictured at the presentation during the Indiana State Fair are, from left, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch; Alyea; and Randy Kron, president of Indiana Farm Bureau.

Conservation practices help retain soil, keeping chemicals, runoff out of water

Local farmer Ben Alyea is the second recipient from his family of the River Friendly Farmer Award. He’s one of 48 Indiana farmers who received the award during the Indiana State Fair.
The award, begun in 2000, recognizes the conservation practices he uses on the grain farm that he and his father, Jon Alyea, own and operate north of Williamsburg. Jon Alyea received the same award about 15 years ago.
The Alyeas farm about 1,200 acres. Jon Alyea’s father, James Alyea, started farming in 1962 and the family has continued. They use conservation farming practices, having converted from traditional tillage to no-till starting in the late 1980s. The farm includes several rivers and some highly erodible land.
“We want to keep the soil there and along with that, the nutrients and herbicides,” Ben Alyea said. They have put filter strips – 60-foot wide strips of grass – along the rivers, and installed waterways through the fields to carry water so soil does not erode.
“When my fields receive heavy rainfall, grassed waterways help hold the soil and its nutrients in place and out of the streams,” he said. “Filter strips prevent me from applying fertilizer and chemicals too close to the rivers and creeks, allowing the grass to filter sediment and chemicals from the crop area, hopefully keeping them on my farms.”
He added, “Cover crops help hold the soil in place over the winter and spring. They also help build soil organic matter as well as pull my nutrients back into the seed bed where my crops can access them. No-till leaves the soil mostly undisturbed allowing the soil structure to hold together better and prevent erosion.”
Raquel Baker, district technician for the Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District, said Alyea attends the SWCD’s Conservation Focus Workshop annually, donates to local FFA chapters and sits on the Greene Township advisory board. He has a seed and chemical business where he sells other farmers seed, cover crops, and herbicides and shares his knowledge of conservation and the practices he uses with them. He is a Certified Crop Advisor and advises on the best agronomic practices.
He is a graduate of Northeastern High School. He earned an associate’s degree in agronomy and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural systems management from Purdue University.
The Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District nominated Ben Alyea for the award.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch addressed the award recipients and their families at the presentation event. Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron offered appreciation to the farmers and landowners.
Sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau, the River Friendly Farmer Award program has recognized over 1,100 Indiana farms.

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