2021 Nominee:

Byron Monk

My nomination for the 2019-2020 year, and now the 2020-2021 year, is Byron Monk.
Byron has long had a strong interest in all aspects of the natural world, from birds to ferns, mammals to plants and fish. Going for a walk with him is always an interesting and educational experience. He is also a modern farmer, and it is the combination of his interests and vocation which makes him particularly worthy of this award.

Byron’s home farm has been in the Monk family for generations and it is clear that his awareness of the history around him is part of his desire to leave the land in good condition for future stewards. To that end he is at the leading edge of recent research in agriculture. The objective of “regenerative agriculture”, as it is sometimes called, is to build the organic matter content of the soil while at the same time reducing erosion and loss of carbon to the atmosphere. This is a change of focus for many farmers for whom the main consideration has been how to maximize yields in order to make a profit. Profit is still necessary, of course, but the idea is that building organic matter in the soil will pay off in the long term with greater natural fertility and deeper soil in place because of less erosion.

On the Monk farm this concept shows in how the fields are worked: crops are rotated to reduce insect pests and disease; tillage is reduced as much as possible to prevent organic matter and carbon from being released to the air; cover crops are planted to keep the soil covered and living roots in the soil; windbreaks have been established to capture snow and prevent wind erosion; cattle are kept for the great benefit of adding their manure to the soil. This last point, keeping animals for the benefit they bring to the soil, is one of the most important being revealed by current research at various institutions around North America.

Other features of the Monk farms include a woodlot planted on an area near a stream, where the open field was too small to be used profitably for crops. A substantial unworked buffer strip is left along both sides of the stream to filter any runoff from the fields before it reaches the stream. There are also several small ponds which have been established in old oxbow channels where the stream once ran. Byron credits the cumulative benefits of the woodlot, the wild vegetation in the buffer strips, and the oxbow ponds as some of the reason he has not needed to use insecticides or fungicides on his crops.

Finally, Byron is willing to share his methods and interests, and to show others features of botany or zoology on his farms. Just within the past year he has shown people an abundance of giant puffballs in one woodlot, a Carolinian tree he found in another, and numerous white trout lilies in yet another. He has established nest boxes along the stream, ostensibly for ducks but also occupied by screech owls. Altogether he’s a fine example of a naturalist/farmer. We need far more like him.

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I the undersigned, wish to have my child
participate in the following activity
sponsored by the Saugeen Naturalists. As part of registering my child, I hereby agree as follows:
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