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Osos Conservationist-Farmer Honored

Los Osos farmer, John Swift, has been named Conservationist of the Year by the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District, and was honored by the County Board of Supervisors at a recent meeting.
Swift was recognized for “outstanding conservation related improvements to his agricultural operations,” according to the County’s award.
Jackie Crabb, the RCD district manager in Morro Bay provided a story published in the March RCD newsletter that said in the early 1980s, Swift “began farming in Clark Canyon and created Swift Subtropicals on the 600-acre Bear Creek Ranch. The operation specializes in subtropical fruits, heirloom vegetables and grass-fed beef.”
He’s been using sustainable farming practices from the beginning, including “A holistic rotational grazing strategy is used to both manage a herd of 40 longhorn-angus cross cattle and to create healthy native grasslands and oak woodlands. Swift values sustainability and biodiversity and strives to promote native grasslands and the overall health of his land.”
His love of the land goes way back. “My passion for conservation,” Swift said, “goes way back to my undergraduate degree at U.C. Berkeley in the newly-created interdisciplinary program CNR, Conservation of Natural Resources. The diversity and legacy of my ranch has been enhanced greatly over the years with thoughtful conservation.”
He explained, “At the headwaters of Los Osos Creek and striving to be a good steward of the land, we began with a gully conversion to a grassy waterway project, which the Soil Conservation Service [now called the NRCS] designed and implemented with the CSLRCD. Several stream bank stabilization projects followed, trying to reduce sediment from ending up in the Morro Bay National Estuary.”
Last November, Swift and the RCD finished a project stabilizing a stream bank on his ranch, stabilizing the stream channel and cutting down erosion entering Los Osos Creek.
“Despite all of the coordination and potential hiccups leading to actual project implementation, John was receptive, engaged and welcoming,” RCD conservation programs manager, Jen Nix said. “John was always willing to work with us through the challenges to ensure we got all of the project elements in the ground and were out of the creek just in time for the start of the rains. Without John’s cooperation, this project would have remained plans on paper.”
The project involved installation of a boulder weir, the RCD reported, boulder toe protection, soil lifts and root wads, “in an effort to protect the creek from future incision, protect a rail car bridge spanning the creek, and enhance habitat for sensitive resources such as steelhead trout and California red-legged frogs.”

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