Red Gold and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) are proud to present Harold and Tom Parker of H&T Parker Farms, located in LaPorte, Ind., and Chris McDonnall of McDonnall Farms, located in Delta, Ohio, with the 2017 Red Gold Stewardship Award. Currently in its ninth year, the award was established to showcase the conservation efforts of Red Gold growers and to recognize those going above and beyond in their farming operations. Parker and McDonnall were recognized during a ceremony held at Red Gold’s corporate headquarters in Elwood.
“Taking care of the land continues to be a priority for Red Gold and farmers across the Midwest,” said Ted McKinney, ISDA Director. “I commend Harold, Tom and Chris for being leaders in conservation and, by their example, encouraging others to do so as well.”
Tom Parker graduated from Purdue University in 2001 and soon after joined the family farming operation, H&T Parker Farms. He uses the latest technology to grow his crops and is currently producing corn, seed corn and tomatoes.
Parker has been with Red Gold since 2012 and grows tomatoes on a five year or more rotation. Making conservation part of his farm management, he has restored wetlands, installed grass filter strips on open ditches and put in place water sediment control basins, just to name a few.
Two of the main reasons Parker received the stewardship award include switching from conventional to vertical tillage and adding cover crops to five out of the six years of their typical rotation.
“The ground is going to give back what you put into it, so you have to make sure that everything is healthy in order to have a sustainable future,” Parker said. “The practices we have put in place show that we are environmentally conscious, and it’s an honor to receive this award and get recognized for that work.”
Located in Delta, Ohio, McDonnall is a fifth generation farmer and owner and operator of McDonnall Farms. Along with corn and soybeans, he has been growing tomatoes on a five year rotation for 55 years – 23 of those with Red Gold.
In addition to planting cover crops, McDonnall incorporates the following conservation practices into his farm management; grass buffers around tile-risers, grass waterways, grass filter strips on open ditches, and water and sediment control basins. Additionally, he has constructed his own strip-tiller for reducing soil disturbance while planting tomatoes.
“Being in charge of a farming operation means doing the best you can with the ground you are using, so it means a lot to be recognized for that,” McDonnall said. “We are a fifth generation farm and would like to continue our operation, and taking care of our resources plays a critical role in that.”
The Red Gold Stewardship Award program is driven by Red Gold’s desire to demonstrate their companywide commitment to good stewardship practices. The company encourages their tomato producers, who are located in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, to adopt good conservation practices and has instilled an atmosphere of continuous improvement.
As the top winner, Parker received a $1,000 scholarship plus the option of shipping an extra truck load of tomatoes per day during harvest season. Taking second place, McDonnall received a $500 scholarship and an extra half truck load of tomatoes per day during harvest.
ISDA’s role in the competition is to serve as an independent evaluator, which includes judging and scoring. The winners were selected based on their conservation practices and efforts.