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Taylor County Success Stories

Lawrence (PDF) (233 KB) html
McGlaun (PDF) (236 KB) html
Wainwright (PDF) (236 KB) html 

EQIP Assistance Rescues Small Farmer from Drought

Amos Lawrence was at a loss. He wanted to continue farming on his 15 acre property in Reynolds but he had a major problem that was standing in his way: a severe shortage of water.
“I didn’t have water. I lost everything that year,” Lawrence remembered. That was in 2010.

Before becoming a full-time farmer, 61-year-old Lawrence worked at Fort Valley State University for several years before retiring as a mechanical superintendent in 2007. It had always been a dream to return to farm life after retirement.

Lawrence grew up on a farm in Alabama and for a short time he farmed row crops in the 1970s. Fond experiences pushed him to make his way back to the farm.
“I was in heaven when I was on a tractor,” Lawrence said.

But those memories didn’t prepare him for the hardships he would face. Last year, after struggling to get by without water for his crops, Lawrence reached out to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

He’d been told about the agency through his relationship with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) office in Fort Valley. FSA previously assisted Lawrence with drought insurance.
“The ladies over at the FSA office told me to go visit Mr. Ray Jones (District Conservationist in the NRCS Fort Valley office). They saw I was struggling. I met with Mr. Jones and he said he’d come out here and take a look at my land to see what could be done. When he came out, he saw that I was attempting to irrigate with small ground based units that weren’t adequate,” Lawrence explained.

After visiting the farm, Jones suggested that applying for an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) agreement might be a step in the right direction in solving Lawrence’s water quantity issue. When Lawrence was approved for the EQIP agreement, he said “That was very good. I was really blessed to get it.”

Although it’s still in the beginning phase, technical assistance provided by Ray Jones and the financial assistance through EQIP funds have helped Lawrence get a well up and running that supplies a micro-irrigation system. The well pumps 100 gallons a minute. The micro-irrigation system delivers a steady drip to the crops. Currently, the micro-irrigation system has been installed on five acres but will eventually cover all of Lawrence’s 15 acres.

When asked what he liked best about EQIP, Lawrence simply stated “It takes the doubt out of farming. It inspires you to continue.” Now that less time is being spent worrying about crop loss, Lawrence can spend more time growing his operation. Right now he grows watermelon, okra, peas, and corn but hopes to grow other crops year round now that water isn’t an issue.
“The water is going to be the real key to this operation,” Lawrence said.

Now, that he has hope for his farm, Lawrence says he can also spend more time sharing his love of the land and value of farm life with his 20-year-old son A.J. who helps out when he’s not attending college. “The knowledge you get on a farm can’t be compared. An all-around farm boy is a smart and sharp guy,” Lawrence said. He wants his son to one day give back to the land by being a good steward and keeping what he calls our country’s backbone, farming, in place.

Taylor County is a designated StrikeForce county in Georgia. The USDA StrikeForce Initiative is designed to help relieve persistent poverty in high-poverty counties.

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Partnership Helps Save Land 

Jack McGlaun was raised and lived on a farm outside the community of Butler, in Taylor County, until he completed high school. He went to college and became a teacher only to find himself teaching for 30 years and farming at the same time. McGlaun says he has been farming since the 60’s, but when you talk with him you can tell in his heart he has been farming longer than that.

 “I grew up in the country and my grandparents had cows and I had some of my own, I mean my father had some since 1960. My grandparents farmed, my cousins-this whole community within a few miles-are cousins and relatives that have farmed through the years. At one time, this was all cotton when I was growing up and a few cows and some corn. But now this whole area back in this part of the county for the most part is livestock and timber, some soybeans. But the soybeans are ground up and used as feed for the livestock.”

McGlaun said he first learned about the conservation technical assistance provided by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through employees of the NRCS. “I learned through Ray Jones, district conservationist for the NRCS, other NRCS members, and Jim Willis, an elected Soil and Water Conservation Office board member. As a matter of fact, before Jim, I didn’t really know that much about the NRCS-nobody knew. I learned about the NRCS about two years ago. But, I kind of knew of it through discussions of the old Soil Conservation Service.”

He had a natural resource concern that he was ashamed to show to anyone. “I realized that I had an extremely horrible wash. I told Ray when he first came out that I was ashamed to show it to him. It was one of the few places I had on my whole place that had a strange erosion where cattle had been going down to a creek and a wetland area. It was so bad, it was literally head high. Since I was in the eighth grade cows would go through there. I remember when it was flat. That was why I called the NRCS. Plus it was good to fence the cows out of the wetland area for wildlife protection and restrict the cows and where you can find them easier,” McGlaun said.

The erosion was a gradual process and McGlaun didn’t realize it was getting that deep. “I didn’t realize it. It was a path. Cows are going to follow the same path and they kept following the same path. They would go down this lane several times a day and water would run down the hill and the path would wash deeper and deeper; after a while it was a gorge there just about.”

Another natural resource concern was his grazing land. He has around 500 acres and runs 70 brood cows and had no rotational grazing plan. Using the cost share from Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) he planted a mixture of forage and installed cross fencing.

McGlaun said, “The big thing about EQIP, I could use those resources (money) to do that with and that would free up other resources. I used that money to put that fence in but I used my money to put other fences in to aid in the rotational grazing.” In order to repair that extremely horrible wash Jones said, “We partnered with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife. They provided the money and we supplied the technical expertise to build a ramp with geo-textile fabric, six inches of GAB gravel, cut the trees back, smooth the land flat and build fences to keep the cattle out of the water.”

“The concerns were addressed through use exclusion and creating a wildlife buffer. The water ramp addressed the water concerns by giving a fixed area for the cattle to drink water. Using EQIP, we addressed the prescribed grazing through cross fencing,” said Jones.

By using both the EQIP and Partners for Fish and Wildlife, McGlaun said his operation has benefited through the application of the conservation treatments. “It has allowed me to increase my cross fencing and rotational grazing. It has allowed the livestock to have better accessibility to the creek, to a watering area, and the water quality is better.”

McGlaun believes his conservation philosophy is unique. “I would like future generations to prevent and stop all erosion and try to improve water quality. This is mine and it should be theirs.” 

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Peach Farmer likes the Micro-irrigation System      

Taylor Orchard, a 3,000-acre family run orchard in Taylor County, has been in the Wainwright family since the 40’s covering three generations. Jeff Wainwright manages the daily operations of Taylor Orchard, but the entire family of Walter, his brother, Patricia, his sister, and Patsy Wainwright, his mother, control the overall business, in a small community just outside of Reynolds.

Jeff Wainwright said he had several natural resource concerns he wanted to address. “I was looking for a more efficient way to irrigate the peach trees without wasting the water, without having so much runoff and without compacting the land. That was our three main goals. Burn less diesel, use less water and get a better job done,” he said.

Wainwright first learned about the conservation technical assistance provided by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) at a Peach Growers Association meeting about three years ago at the Ag Research Center in Byron. He said, “We met with Ray Jones, district conservationist, for the NRCS in Byron, some other people out of Athens and out of Washington, D.C.”

Jones said, “This is the first time we have worked with peach farmers with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the micro-irrigation system.”

Using EQIP, Wainwright put a 50-acre block under a micro-irrigation system to start with the first year and another 50-acre block right across the road the second year. Now he is looking at the savings. “I would say putting in that system, on diesel alone, we saved probably 60%. We probably used 40% less diesel with the drip system than we did with the overhead,” said Wainwright.

He went on to explain that with the low pressure system, you’re running 50 lbs pressure at the pump verses 120-130 lbs pressure at the pump on your overhead irrigation system. You have to set that much head pressure at the well to get the water to go far enough to do any good. “Plus another benefit I see to it is that water is not hitting the fruit, it’s just all being taken up by the tree and going to the fruit so you don’t have to worry about disease pressure as much. In other words, by doing the emitter system up under the tree you’ve got the water going all around the canap of the bottom of the tree and you don’t have the water getting on the fruit. A peach, once it gets within two weeks of harvest it doesn’t like water,” said Wainwright.

Wainwright has noticed that using the micro-irrigation system has helped in two ways. It saves him money (cuts down on diseased fruit) and he has a better quality of fruit that tastes better.

The best thing he likes about EQIP is the savings and what it allows him to do. “I like the savings, using less fuel and water and it lets me do some more precision farming. It’s a fairly simple program, as compared to some government. This is probably the simplest program I’ve ever worked with. I’m serious! I mean you apply and they give you the money and you put your plan in. It’s that simple,” said Wainwright.

Taylor Orchard has benefited from the application of the conservation treatments under EQIP both long and short term. “It enables you to set up something long term in a field. If the program was there and you were financially able you would want every tree you have irrigated under a drip or emitter system. We have 90% irrigated now, but a lot of it is still with the overhead system and that’s not efficient. I would like to eventually get 60-70% of my farm under drip or emitters. I would feel great. Look at your fuel savings! It gives you bigger and more marketable fruit,” said Wainwright.

He would like future generations, “to realize that with these new techniques to use with your emitter and drips that you can get the job done a lot more efficiently without disturbing the land and without using up your water source and fuel source. Don’t be afraid to look at new technology.”

Of the 3,000 acres the orchard has 4 acres in strawberries, 200 acres in pecans and the rest in peaches.

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