Mark Eck built his first chicken house in 1977. While he and his family have expanded beyond poultry over the years, much of the soy produced on Mae-Vue farms today is still used as chicken-feed.

Below, a closer look at a sampling of conservation practices Eck uses to promote water quality and soil health on his row crop and poultry farm in the mid-Atlantic state of Maryland.

  • “Every five years, we ‘rip’ the soil somewhat at 11 inches deep without spading it,” Eck says.
  • Crop rotation and cover crops are used to retain soil health and prevent erosion.
  • Cover crops also help reduce the growth of weeds.
  • Smart sprinklers and GPS technology on farming equipment help limit the areas and amounts of pesticides and fertilizers used.
  • Concrete floorings around the chicken houses reduce the runoff of manure.
  • Riparian buffers along water streams reduce the runoff of nutrients into the water; they also provide a good habitat for all kinds of species.
  • Two systems for water drainage and water sheds retain water in ditches. This secures healthy groundwater levels and allows nutrients to sink before the water floats further.

These are just a sampling of conservation efforts underway to improve water and soil health on Eck’s Maryland farm.