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November 13, 2013
2013 Oxford Stewardship Award winner announced
Joe and Mary Coblentz recognized for respect for their farm and the environment, past, present and future.

County of Oxford Warden Don McKay presented the 2013 Oxford Stewardship Award to Zorra Township residents Joe and Mary Coblentz this morning for their voluntary efforts to help protect the quality of Oxford’s soil, water and air.       

Singled out by the Oxford Stewardship Award selection committee for their deep commitment to conservation efforts, the Coblentzs help protect soil, water and air quality through a variety of measures, including the creation of two wetland areas with approximately 1.5 acres of surface water and 2.75 acres of reforested agricultural land surrounding the wetlands. The Coblentzs represent  farmers with considerable respect for both their farm and the environment, past, present and future.  

The Coblentzs were chosen from a pool of three finalists whose environmental stewardship projects  were supported by the Clean Water Program, a program to promote rural water quality funded by the County of Oxford and administered by the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. All of this year’s finalists retired marginal or inefficient farm land to enhance surrounding wetland habitats by digging ponds and planting trees on the unused acreages. In keeping with the theme of celebrating and supporting local achievement, the County of Oxford is again honouring this year’s Oxford Stewardship Award recipient with original artwork commissioned from a local artist. As the 2013 winner, the Coblentzs received a $500 gift certificate towards the purchase of a work of art by local photographer, Bruce Hartley of Innerkip. The winner of the Oxford Stewardship Award is chosen by Stewardship Oxford and the Oxford Soil & Crop Improvement Association, with Ian Mayberry, Soil & Crop Improvement Association, and Cher Sprague, Stewardship Oxford, leading the judging process. This year’s other short-listed nominees included:

  • Walter and Kim Kyle-Letsch from Blandford Blenheim, who constructed a wetland on their farm.
  • Mike and Christine Renaud, who constructed wetlands on their farm, with approximately 12 acres of reforestation, in partnership with with Ducks Unlimited and Stewardship Oxford.



“The Coblentzs have shown a tremendous amount of respect and consideration for their families, communities and the environment. They are dedicated to continuing with sustainable agriculture practices to enhance wetland habitats.”

    - Cher Sprague, Stewardship Oxford Board Member and Oxford Stewardship Award judge

“In this fifth year of the Oxford Stewardship Award, we continue to see that our rural landowners are deeply committed to farming practices that respect our environment and support a more sustainable future. Oxford County is proud of our agricultural heritage and is especially proud of our farming communities that think to the future to sustain both farming and the land.”

   - Don McKay, Warden, County of Oxford


 “The Oxford Stewardship Award brings together various partners who work to protect agricultural land and Oxford County’s natural environment. The County of Oxford is honoured to support the great work completed by our farming communities, individual landowners and our local conservation authorities and partner agencies.

    -  Gordon Hough, Corporate Manager, Community & Strategic Planning, County of Oxford




  • Candidates for the Oxford Stewardship Award are drawn from recipients of the previous year’s Clean Water Program incentive funding. Funding is available for sustainable woodlands conservation and management; soil erosion prevention and remediation; protection of surface and groundwater; proper fuel handling and storage; and other conservation initiatives. In 2012, a total of 101 projects were funded through the Clean Water Program in Oxford County. For more information on the Clean Water Program, visit
  • The Oxford Stewardship Award was established in 2009. It builds on the legacy of the former Landsaver Award, which was granted between 1982 and 2003 to recognize outstanding contributions by the farming community toward the conservation of land, water and air. The development of a stewardship award to acknowledge the role rural landowners play in preserving natural heritage was one of the recommended actions in the Oxford Natural Heritage Study.
  • Bruce Hartley is a photographer based out of Woodstock, Ontario. Bruce is a founding member of the Oxford Photographic Arts Guild and holds membership in the Woodstock Camera Club, Oxford Creative Connections, the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre and the Woodstock Art Gallery. He has exhibited in juried shows at the Woodstock Art Gallery, JMR Gallery (Bayfield) and Ayrspace Gallery of Visual and Functional Art (Ayr).  Locally, he exhibits at the Oxford Summer Arts Festival, Oxford Creates, and in the Oxford Studio Tour. For more information, visit



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