2019 Cooperator of the Year
Blaine Hitchens farms about 1,000 acres of cropland in a corn, soybean, and cover crop rotation and raises poultry in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. His poultry operation has a 150,000 broiler capacity across six houses. Blaine has been no-tilling for 15 years and planting cover crops for 10 years now and has been working hard to improve his soil health. He is an innovator when it comes to soil health practices. Blaine historically has participated in the District’s cover crop cost-share program and has implemented several structural water quality BMPs (poultry) and management practices through EQIP. Annually he continues to participate in the District and/or NRCS Farm Bill Programs.
About four years ago, Blaine began planting green into a hairy vetch, forage radish, and cereal rye mix of cover crops. Now he is planting every acre “green” ensuring that he keeps a living root growing all the time. His cover crop mix of choice is hairy vetch and cereal rye because the vetch will climb the rye helping to create more biomass.
Blaine has been a huge supporter of SCDs soil health initiative and joined the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Soil Health Champion Network in 2019. Hitchens graciously hosted the Soil Health Field Day at his farm, rented from Chip Baker on Aug. 20, 2019. He is also featured in a cover crop commercial that aired in May 2020.
Blaine also was selected to participate in a national economic case study by the Soil Health Institute in partnership with NACD. His passion for soil health and sharing his knowledge is undeniable, making him an excellent representative for the Governor’s Conservation Award and Cooperator of the Year.
-D. Lyle Jarrett of Quantico, Md., Vernon “Chip” Baker of Millsboro, Richard Carlisle of Bridgeville and Blaine Hitchens of Laurel, intently listen to speakers Hans Kok and Loran Steinlage at the caffeine and cover crop breakfast at Rudy’s Family Diner in Harrington on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. The event gave farmers an opportunity to discuss soil health topics with industry experts.
-NACD Soil Health Champions from Sussex County, Del. attend the cover crop workshop are, from left, James “Jay” H. Baxter IV of Georgetown, Vernon “Chip” Baker Jr. of Millsboro, Brad Ritter of Nassau, Guy Phillips of Georgetown, Steve Groff, owner of Cover Crop Coaching, and Blaine Hitchens of Laurel at the Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Company on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.
Delmarva Farmer • May 29, 2020 • Hitchens experimenting with biostimulents to control house litter ammonia
Soil Health Field Day • Aug. 20, 2019 • Planting Green
From Cloud to Cab • Aug. 20, 2019 • Planting Green Soil Health Field Day Farmer Panel Recording