U.S. Cotton Growers, Jay and Mary Hardwick, Win 2015 National Wetlands Award for Landowner Stewardship
May 28, 2015

The Environmental Law Institute has recognized Mary and Jon “Jay” Hardwick as the recipient of the 2015 National Wetlands Award for Landowner Stewardship. The Hardwicks and five other award recipients were honored at a ceremony at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2015. For more information, please visit www.nationalwetlandsawards.org.

Mary and Jon “Jay” Hardwick are partners in Hardwick Planting Company, which operates on Somerset Plantation, a large family partnership in Newellton, LA. They are dedicated to achieving and promoting balanced farm ecosystems that are both productive and sustainable.

With Mary as the managing partner of Somerset Plantation, they have planned and documented their efforts to harmonize productive agricultural operations with maximum natural resource protection and a comprehensive conservation plan for the whole farm. They have implemented conservation practices and systems that have included extensive crop rotation, minimum tillage, field borders, filter strips, and wetland restoration.

“Our shared family farm vision is to maintain and grow the diversity of the agricultural, forested, and native habitat of our property while ensuring its productivity so that future family members will have a fully functional and sustainable farmstead to meet their needs,” said Mary.

Since 1814, Somerset Plantation has had only two owners and has been in agricultural production for over 200 years. The Hardwicks have restored over 450 acres of wetlands and preserved approximately 3,000 acres of wetlands on the 20,000-acre farm. They also maintain 6,000 acres of bottomland hardwood timber, which provides crucial habitat for the endangered Louisiana Black Bear.

In addition to incorporating conservation practices on their own farm, Jay is actively involved in public outreach. He completed the three-year Louisiana Master Farmers Program and remains active in the program by hosting over 17 workshops and numerous farm tours to demonstrate and discuss water and soil quality issues and conservation practices. “A lot of things we get involved in get picked up by other farmers, but it’s not just about lecturing,” said Jay. “I’ve learned a lot from everyone else who gets involved.”

He also sits on the board of the Tensas Concordia Soil Conservation District, taking on a leadership role in getting conservation practices on the ground and leading public meetings. His outreach efforts also resulted in the enrollment of over 71,000 acres of cropland in the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program, which improved water quality and wetland habitats.

Jay is also involved in the Cotton LEADS, a national program committed to responsibly produced cotton. Not only does he conduct outreach to farmers, but also presents information to manufacturers to encourage sourcing cotton from responsible producers.

The Hardwicks raised two children who both now also work on the farm and are continuing the tradition of connecting conservation and agriculture. They are working to ensure the understanding of how to sustain long-term agricultural production along with a diverse and vibrant habitat that continues to the next generation of farmers.

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