MSW Farms recently was awarded the Battle River Watershed Alliance OTIS award for its dedication to the Battle River Riparian Project. Along with planting trees along the river the farm makes use of solar powered off-site watering systems. Here the family poses with their award-winning longhorn Blade. Photo from the MSW Farms website

Ponoka farm honoured with award for stewardship

MSW Farms named by watershed alliance as OTIS award winner

An area farm that has gone out of its way the past few years has been recognized with a prestigious award.

The Battle River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) earlier this month released its list of winners of its 2017 OutsTanding In Stewardship (OTIS) awards with Ponoka’s MSW Farms named the recipient in the business category.

The operation, located along the Battle River northwest of Ponoka is a family affair run by Mark and Tina Stewart, whose farm is more than simply raising grass-finished beef, bison, elk, chicken and pork and the sale of purebred breeding stock of Texas Longhorns.

“We are very honoured and excited to be named the OTIS business award winners for 2017. We are very passionate about protecting the river valley along our property and being presented with this award is a nice surprise recognition and pat on the back for the work we have done,” said Tina.

“Our overall goal includes nurturing the environment so that we can protect wildlife, the river valley and the land. This helps us to produce healthy grass so we can grow healthy food for our family and for yours.”

While the Stewarts have put in place more than two kilometres of fencing to keep animals away from the river and installed several off-site watering stations, they have also helped plant some 7,000 trees with the help of the Agroforestry and Woodlot Extension Society and host tours to explain why it is so important to do what they call ‘STEWARTship’.

“We will continue to plant more trees, fence more acres, continue to utilize our solar powered off-site watering systems and keep our livestock out of the river,” she said.

“We host tours and we have the kids explain how the solar waters keep the cows out of the river, how the fences protect the plants along the river bank, how the plants decrease the erosion and how the overall health of the river and life in it are improved because of these actions. By teaching our children the importance of protecting the land and environment, we hope our passion for growing quality food products while still protecting nature will live on for generations to come.”

Tina added their direct-marketing business is based on grass and if they look after the grass and the rest of the environment, then the grass and the land will look after them.

“We would like to encourage others along the river valley to invest in the future of the river banks by taking any steps possible to stop erosion, improve plant life and protect its natural wildlife,” she said.

BRWA research and stewardship coordinator Susanna Bruneau explained the OTIS awards are for taking action to make the watershed a better place to live for all life and for future generations.

“MSW Farms were nominated because of the Stewart’s tremendous work on the Ponoka Riparian Project as well as their dedication, enthusiasm, great support and promotion of the benefits of the project,” she said.

“The Stewarts have also gone far beyond the project as they continue to speak about environmental stewardship of the land and this award is, in part, recognition for that work as well.”

The awards have been presented since 2012 and were named after the main character in a book series called Otis and Friends: Environmental Adventures written by Ponoka high school students for the BRWA Caring for our Watersheds contest.

The other 2017 OTIS award recipients were the Buffalo Lake Naturalists Club from Stettler in the organization category, Katelynn Cook of Camrose in the youth category and Camrose’s Tom Tomaszewski in the individual category.

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