Allen & Sondra Messick
2015 Cooperator of the Year
The Messicks have a long-standing relationship with the Sussex Conservation District as strong supporters of cover crops and soil health, participating every year in the district’s cover crop program. They participated in the district’s Air Seeder Pilot Program, planting a radish and cereal rye mix into standing corn.
The Messicks participated in USDA-NRCS’s EQIP Program for irrigation water management and conservation tillage, as well as nutrient management under a plan written by the Conservation District. Other conservation practices include installing grass buffer strips on their farm to improve water quality and reduce erosion. They also worked with the University of Delaware, U.S. Geological Survey and DNREC on an irrigation study to see if the use of irrigation will improve nutrient uptake and water quality.
A fourth-generation farmer who owns 300 acres grown with corn, wheat and soybeans, Allen attended as many soil health workshops as he could and worked behind the scenes promoting soil health and cover crops to workshop participants. Allen also served as a resource for the small farmer’s perspective on Conservation District programs such as cover crops, soil health and the air seeder.
As a manager on the Bucks Branch Tax Ditch, Allen used the district’s equipment program with USDA-NRCS’s EQIP funds to implement a bank stabilization project on the tax ditch. The bank stabilization project used green technology and bioengineering to complete the project which incorporated vegetative practices such as coconut fiber coir logs and live stakes.
The Messicks have been committed to improving soil health on their farm practicing no-till for more than 20 years, with some fields being no-tilled as long as 25 years. Allen also served as a trustee on the Farmland Preservation Board, a director on the Sussex County Farm Bureau and past president of the Delaware Soybean Board. The Messicks’ commitment to improving water quality and protecting the environment makes them good stewards of the land and outstanding cooperators.
The 2015 Governor’s Agricultural Conservation Award for Sussex County was presented to the Messick family. Pictured, from left, are SCD staff, David Baird, district coordinator, Debbie Absher, director of agricultural conservation and Joel Wharton, board of supervisors chairman, Robert Bagwell, Tiffany Siegler, Sondra and Allen Messick, Jessica and Kenny Kinsell, and Morgan and Cody Vanderwende.
In 2018, Senator Tom Carper visited the Messick Farm to view conservation programs in action.
Allen and Sondra Messick, along with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and SCD staff show Senator Carper a restored tax ditch stream bank.
Restored stream bank with new HDPE pipe installed by SCDs Equipment Program.
Allen Messick, Senator Carper and Kasey Taylor, USDA NRCS state conservationist for Delaware, discuss conservation practices available to farmers and landowners.
Filming the 2015 cooperator of the year video, Allen Messick stands next to a field of soybeans, recounting how the rye cover crop significantly reduced weed pressure.
Cape Gazette • April 5, 2016 • Agricultural and Urban Conservation Award winners honored