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Hobarts of Breakneck Ridge Farm in Blanchard to receive PCSWCD Lifetime Achievement Award

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BLANCHARD — Steve and Diana Hobart have made a lifetime commitment of being land stewards through forestry and farming at Breakneck Ridge Farm. In addition, they have worked tirelessly to educate others and to help shape conservation management decisions at the local, state and federal level in order to care for our natural resources.

The Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District (PCSWCD) is pleased to present the Hobarts with a Lifetime Achievement Award for their decades of contributions to natural resource stewardship and for sharing their knowledge and guidance with so many others over the decades. Please join us on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Breakneck Ridge Farm to celebrate and honor the Hobarts with this very special award.

Steve’s grandparents, Paul and Ruth Hobart, purchased the farm in 1953 with 40 acres of land. The house was built in the 1800s and most of the 40 acres was cleared at this time. In the 1960s they bought a 60-acre parcel on the Church Road, which did not have any common boundaries with the homestead. In 1977 Steve and Diana bought the Orth lot, a 140-acre parcel that lay between Steve’s grandparent’s two lots thus making one large continuous lot. This lot had a house on it that they restored and moved into. They raised their two children, Peter and Jackie, in this house.

In 1979 the Hobarts purchased the 750-acre Mitchell lot, which was across the road from the original homestead. It was at this point that the Hobarts decided to do some part time farming on some of the 950 acres they owned. There were 40 acres of open fields, of which they did not want to revert back to trees. They named their farm as Breakneck Ridge is on the north side of the Mitchell lot.

For their first decade they raised Hereford beef, followed by fallow deer for almost 20 years. The Hobarts banded with other deer farms to form the New England Venison Co-op. As the first commercial deer farmer in Maine and a founder of the co-op, Steve was a natural to serve as the co-op’s president during the early years. The group together could fill large commercial orders that each individual farm might not be able to take on. Diana is a fifth generation maple syrup producer. Since 1987 Steve and Diana have also produced maple syrup for sale. The Hobarts switched to raising the majestic American buffalo in 2001 for another 15 years. Their herd of over 60 buffalo were rotationally grazed on 45 acres of land until being sold in 2016 as the Hobarts started to pursue a quieter time in their lives.

The original tree farm was started by Paul and Ruth Hobart, and was certified in 1971. Steve’s other grandfather, Elmer Stevens, graduated from the University of Maine in 1909 with a degree in forestry. He later became the district conservationist at the PCSWCD office. Following the inspiration and knowledge Steve received from his grandfathers he took over managing the forestry initiatives in 1987. Additionally following in their footsteps, Steve became a certified tree farmer and also joined the board of supervisors of the PCSWCD in 1988.

In addition to these farming endeavors, the Hobarts have maintained a forest management plan on their land. Steve and Diana have worked tirelessly to model forestry Best Management Practices. They have actively followed their plan to enhance the value of timber on their land, especially maple, and to encourage many species of wildlife, including moose, deer, bear, turkey, and other wildlife species.

They worked with the American Tree Farm System’s Maine Tree Farm Committee to bring statewide publicity to commendable tree farmers. Steve corresponded with Gov. Angus King, officials in the Maine Department of Conservation and with various newspapers to bring the needs of tree farmers to light. Steve stressed that more publicity would mean better communication between the Tree Farm program, the public and more awareness of environmental issues.

In the meantime, Diana received her teaching certification from the University of Maine and joined the staff of SAD 4 in Guilford in 1994. Diana has taught multiple grades and with each class she includes natural resource education, hands-on engagement in nature and field trips to visit places like the PCSWCD’s Demonstration Forest in Williamsburg and to Breakneck Ridge Farm.

Diana also became certified from the Natural Resource Institute (NRI) at the University of Maine-Farmington, then took every opportunity to encourage her coworkers to attend NRI and to bring conservation education into the classroom.

Each year the PCSWCD recognizes one teacher in Piscataquis County as the Outstanding Conservation Educator of the Year, for dedication to fostering students’ learning and understanding of natural resource ecology, conservation biology and related curriculum. Because of the many ways that Diana has fostered exemplary natural resource education in both her students and fellow teachers, she was awarded the PCSWCD Outstanding Conservation Education Teacher of the Year in 2013.

Between the Hobart’s desire to promote conservation education and Diane’s position as a teacher, countless children have visited the farm. Classes from many grade levels from SAD 4 have learned about where food comes from, how maple trees are tapped for maple syrup, and how sustainable tree farming is accomplished. Boy Scouts, 4-H groups and more have benefited from these tours. The couple also hosted children from the PCSWCD’s Summer Conservation Camp each year.

The Hobarts also participated for many years in Maine’s Open Farm Day program, hosting tours to the public and offering up samples of maple syrup drizzled over vanilla ice cream as well as venison and buffalo prepared in various ways. The farm has been host to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Landowner Assistance Program and Supplier Appreciation Field Day, Deer Farm Field Days, the Maine Association of Conservation Districts’ summer meeting tour, members of the American Forest Foundation, groups from the Piscataquis County Extension Office, English Program students from the Nakamura Girls’ School in Tokyo, Japan, members of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine and of the Natural Resource Education Center. They have also hosted educational tours for forestry and forest management demonstrations. The Hobarts are also affiliated with a number of local community and civic groups.

Excellence leads to success. Steve was a founder and member of the Forest Products Marketing and Management Association. Steve and Diana were the 1980 Marketing and Management Association Operator of the Year. In 1992, they were recognized as Outstanding Tree Farmer in Piscataquis, Franklin and Somerset counties. Because of their exemplary forestry practices, they were chosen as Maine’s Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in 1995. The outstanding conservation practices that they have implemented in cooperation with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) resulted in the Hobarts being recognized as the PCSWCD Cooperators of the Year in 1990 and 2007. The conservation practices that they have implemented include forestry and agriculture management practices, as well as soil erosion control practices on their access roads, both to keep these roads functional and to protect water quality.

Steve has worked with local, state and national leaders to further the interests of sustainable farming and forestry. He corresponded with U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins regarding the Endangered Species Recovery Act to ensure that the protection process was based on cooperation rather than conflict between the federal government and private property owners. He also corresponded with state legislators and the media about the inheritance tax. This tax, when applied to farmers, penalized a family for value that would still be standing in the ground for many years, he said. He urged fair taxation with regard to inherited farmland.

Steve also served on the Maine Association of Conservation Districts (MACD) Executive Board in addition to chairing the local district for many years. Locally, Steve has led the conservation district in many successes. The PCSWCD was recognized as the MACD District of the Year in 1996, and again in 2003. Also in 2003, the PCSWCD won the national Northeast Region Chief’s Field Award for its outstanding achievements completed mainly with volunteer support.

Steve was instrumental in the development of the district’s Demonstration Forest, which opened 15 years ago. The Demonstration Forest is an accomplishment of which the district is understandably proud. It offers two historical homestead sites, forestry Best Management Practices (BMP) examples, a glacially formed canyon and miles of hiking and skiing trails on 180 acres of district land. Steve helped to shape the original concept of the forest, write grants, and formed many of the partnerships that made the forest a reality. He has rolled up his sleeves to clear trails and build the outdoor classroom. In addition to serving as an educational tool with the general public, this forest is used to train foresters in Best Management Practices. In 2007, the district was honored with two national awards for fostering partnerships and for excellence in natural resource education.

In 2002, Steve took his conservation knowledge to the national level. A year later he became the MACD President, which he remained until 2008. He was the first person ever to represent the PCSWCD and local agroforestry concerns in Washington, D.C. Steve continued to speak at national forums through 2008. During each trip he presented the views and needs of our under-represented region and state to a national audience. He also helped shape policy and influence funding decisions in the Farm Bill.

According to the Hobart’s, “If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.” In the case of Breakneck Ridge Farm, this land that they have sustainably cared for has created a healthy ecosystem for farming and for wildlife. It has not only provided for them for so many years, but also fostered a love for the wilderness Maine experience in family, friends and visitors for several decades.

PCSWCD Board Chair Gordon Moore noted that he “wholeheartedly endorses the nomination of Diana and Steve Hobart of Breakneck Ridge Farm for this Lifetime Achievement Award. Over the length of their stewardship the Hobart family has conducted outstanding silvicultural practices on their property which has proven beneficial in maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitat. The Hobarts are keenly aware of the unique position of their property with respect to wild salmon breeding waters and at the interface of the agricultural and woodland areas of the state of Maine. I believe that the Hobarts are an excellent nominee for this award.”

The Hobarts have implemented practices such as no-till seeding, management of high use areas, and sediment retention erosion control on their woods roads all to protect the soil and water. Forestry best management practices have helped the land to be self-sustaining. The Hobarts acknowledge that good conservation practices can be labor intensive and require an initial investment but with the NRCS’s cost share programs better practices go into place.

These practices will be highlighted on a tour on Sept. 16, with a rain date of Sept. 30, that will be led by Moore and Steve Hobart. This will be followed by a picnic luncheon and awards ceremony.

Please confirm your attendance by Friday, Sept. 8 by contacting 564–2321, extension 3 or info@piscataquisswcd.org. Pre-registration is required. The public is invited register for this very special event to lend a hand to applaud the Hobarts for their Lifetime Achievement Award!

Photo courtesy of PCSWCD
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD — Steve and Diana Hobart of Breakneck Ridge Farm in Blanchard will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District on Saturday, Sept. 16. The couple has made a lifetime commitment of being land stewards through forestry and farming.

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