Retirement for Janice Giles has been hard work. Janice re-entered farm life when her father died nine years ago. At the time, Giles still worked full-time for Georgia Power but dedicated her free time to her father’s farm, George Merritt Estate in Cuthbert. Janice finally committed to farming full-time last December when she retired from her job.
In the years since she and her husband have been operating the farm, Giles has taken steps to continue her father’s legacy of conservation. Giles said the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has helped the Giles keep that commitment. “My father was proud of his farm and loved the land. When he passed away, he was in the process of some tree planting and my mother and I made the decision to go ahead with the project. I met with Karen Reese with the NRCS and she and I discussed some concerns and ideas we had,” Giles explained.
Since then, Janice has participated in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and is currently enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) Agricultural Land. She also has a CSP agreement for Non Industrial Private Forest (NIPF). Both have helped her address the erosion on her property and helped provide water and forage for the livestock as well as improve wildlife habitat.
“I enjoy working with Janice. She is very conservation minded. She tries to do everything right and makes sure she knows exactly what she needs to do. She does a good job,” Reese said.
EQIP has assisted Giles with tree planting on cutover timberland, planting grass to control an erosion problem and to supplement livestock feed for her cows. NRCS has also assisted with prescribed grazing by dividing her pasture with a fence and installing a watering facility for livestock. There are roughly 160 head of cattle on the farm.
NRCS is currently working with Giles under CSP by over-seeding her pasture with legumes and stock piling forages in order to extend the grazing season and reduce the need for feeding hay. Giles’ NIPF CSP contract will be used to help her utilize forest stand improvement, firebreaks, prescribed burning as well as tree/shrub planting to improve upland wildlife habitat management. She recently installed forest wildlife structures to improve the habitat for birds.
“I wish there was enough funding to help more people with their projects. Everything is so expensive now and a lot of us land owners have limited funds to do what needs to be done,” Giles said. Because she’s taken an extra step to make sure she gets things done on her property, The Lower Chattahoochee River Soil and Water Conservation District named Giles as Conservationist of the Year for 2010.
The district’s supervisor H.B. Beard said, “It is great to see that one of the children took over the family farm. Janice realized what the farm meant to her over the years and did not want to see someone else farming it. She is mindful of resource concerns and is improving them by installing and maintaining conservation practices on her family farm.” Giles said that it all simply came down to doing what is right.
“I heard my father say numerous times that no more land could be made and we need to take care of what we have. I, like most people, never gave it much thought but now that I am out there every day, I now understand what he was talking about. I have a lot of work to do.”
Randolph County is a designated StrikeForce county in Georgia. The StrikeForce Initiative targets 60 areas in the state where communities have been historically underserved and where a majority of the population is socially disadvantaged.