Ted Layton and Scott Willey, owners of T&S Farms in Milford, are adamant about making sure their 44-acre farm doesn’t pollute the environment.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture put this year’s spotlight on their efforts with its Environmental Stewardship Award.

“I’m honored to be recognized,” Layton said. “But it’s something that we do on a regular basis.”

They opened the farm four years ago. Part of their plan included exercising environmentally sound practices, such as stormwater ponds that keep the water supply clean and tree buffers that keep it out of sight.

“As with any live animal, you have feces and other nutrients left on the ground, so as it rains you have runoff that you have to control.”

The pond acts as a central drainage system on the property where all the contaminated water ends up.

Tree buffers have a different purpose.

“The trees that we planted act as a buffer for a variety of reasons. As our fans run—which are exhausts fans that pull air and dust and particles out of the chicken houses—[the trees] actually act as a filter keeping those air particles, as much as we can, on site and not blowing onto a neighbor,” he said.

Layton and Willey have been friends since they were in second grade. They’ve supported each other in a multitude of endeavors—including marriage. They were each the best man at the other’s wedding.

Layton said the farm is an opportunity for his two young children to learn the importance of hard work.

“My son and daughter will come out here every once and while,” he said. “If my son wants a new baseball bat he comes here because he has to work it off.”

Entering the poultry business seemed like an easy decision for the duo.

“Both of us grew up in Delaware so we have been around chicken farming our entire lives,” Layton said. “Both of us fairly enjoy live animals. There are a lot of things we could have chosen to invest our money in, but this is home for chicken farming in Delmarva. “

The construction, oversight, organizing and time invested can be taxing, but “this comes with being a farmer and keeping the environment as a main priority,” he said.

Chicken farming sometimes gets a bad rap, Layton said.

“They are cleaner than they get credit for,” he said. “If your farm is being run the appropriate way and systems are put in place that correlate with environmental issues chicken farming is not as dirty as the reputation that precedes it.”

Runners-up for the Environmental Stewardship Award were Alvin and Norma Warner of Milford, Tracey Hill of Laurel and Jim Nguyen of Georgetown.

Layton and Willey will receive $1,000, a plaque and a sign for their farm. The runners-up will receive $500, plaques and signs.