Upson County Success Stories
Rogers (PDF) (230 KB)html
Hollis (PDF) (195 KB)html
By Karen Buckley Washington, Lawrenceville
Tom Rogers developed a love for farming from his grandfather, whom he lived with during his childhood, and developed a desire to operate a farm of his own from that experience.
Rogers and his wife, Dorothy, purchased their 15-acre farm in Thomaston in 1997 where they raise a herd of Belted Galloway cattle and grow blueberries. For most of his adult life, Tom had raised broiler chickens for a local farm, along with cattle, so the transition into operating his own farm wasn’t foreign to him.
“Our original intention, with our farm, was to breed and raise Peruvian horses, but our focus changed to raising cattle, something I knew very well,” said Rogers.
Rogers became concerned about erosion around the cattle’s water troughs and hay rings, which resulted in having to move the cattle periodically, due to excessive standing water and mud.
“For years, we only had water from our household well, which caused us concern about providing a sufficient water supply,” said Rogers. “We also needed adequate winter grazing and additional cross fencing to better manage our resources.”
While visiting Auburn University’s veterinary facility, Rogers discussed some of his concerns with vet technicians on staff and they suggested that he contact the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for information.
Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), along with the 319 Potato Creek watershed project, Barnesville District Conservationist Carmen Westerfield and Soil Conservationist Technician Carol Oliver offered technical assistance to Rogers with the installation of a rotational grazing system, using geotextile fabric and stone gravel (crush and run), to manage problems with standing water and overgrazed pastures.
“Their rotational grazing system has allowed the grass to be in better condition and plentiful, even in drought conditions,” said Oliver. “They are thrilled with the watering facilities and with the heavy-use areas around the troughs. The cows no longer stand in mud and they have plenty of water.”
With their grazing concerns now resolved, the Rogers’ continue to sell blueberries to the public, through local farmers markets and plan to expand to a ‘Pick Your Own’ site next year.
“With the help of the programs, our operation has been enhanced, is much more manageable and eco-friendly. The NRCS personnel have been wonderful to work with,” said Rogers.
Terry Hollis grew-up on a farm in Upson County, learning about farming from his father and uncles and began a love affair with farming that exists today. “I grew up on this farm watching my dad and uncles’ row crop and raising cattle. When I got old enough, I started to help out around the farm. I guess that was when the love for farming began to grow inside me,” said Hollis. Hollis’s father passed the farm to him in 2002.
Hollis had some concerns about his farm and he wanted to make it productive but the only places he knew where to go was the local Farm Service Agency (FSA). “The farm had been a hobby farm and provided a small supplemental income for dad. I, like him, was a factory worker at the time and I wanted the farm to be a more productive operation. The first step in doing that was a trip to my local FSA office and that is where I learned about the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS),” said Hollis.
When he visited the Barnesville field office to find out about the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) he went prepared to do what was needed. “When Terry came into the office to apply and find out what EQIP was, he brought with him a farm plan, he had a vision and that is where he has taken his farm,” said Carol Oliver, soil conservation technician for the NRCS in Barnesville.
Oliver went on to say, “The cattle farm was in need of many repairs. Over the years, the cattle had run in one big pasture and rutted the land badly causing an erosion problem that had to be repaired. This area was fast becoming a gully.”
Many practices were recommended by the NRCS, all of which Hollis completed. He used cross fencing to set up a rotational grazing system with eight paddocks and also to fence out two streams on the land. Once this was done, a prescribed grazing system was established.
The cattle were using the streams as a watering place causing ruts to form on the land. To fix this and give the cattle limited access, water ramps were made using heavy use protection and gravel.
A well was drilled and watering troughs placed in each paddock where streams were not available. Pipelines were laid to each trough and heavy use areas were installed so the cattle would have fresh water available.
The area around the working facility and the path the cows used from the working facility to the bottom pasture was rutted out and eroded from many years of neglect. The area was graded and reseeded using critical area planting and a heavy use area was installed around the feeding tanks.
Because of overuse, very little maintenance and neglect over the years, the pastures were worn-down.
A plan was established to reseed the paddocks and establish a hay field and over-seeding was done on each paddock to extend the winter grazing.
Hollis has seen many benefits with the use of EQIP on his farm. “With the help of EQIP, I have been able to put in a watering system, fence out streams, build watering ramps, over-seed existing pasture, put up cross fences, and start a rotational grazing system. This has allowed me to run more cattle on less land and be more productive. With the help of EQIP, it is growing into a productive and environmentally sound farm,” said Hollis.
Oliver says Hollis is committed to conservation and very happy with the NRCS. “He was dedicated in the very beginning and committed to restoring the farm to its full potential. He took all the ideas and the conservation plan that the NRCS offered and applied them. He has been very receptive to any recommendations that the NRCS has made and is well pleased with the outcome,” said Oliver.
Hollis’ conservation philosophy is to preserve the land for future generations. “To provide stewardship to all earthly resources in order to restore, protect, and enhance; so that present and future generations may benefit from our conservation practices. The land is one of our greatest resources and as a farmer, it's a blessing to be able to produce food from that resource ─ I want to preserve that for generations to come,” said Hollis.
Besides raising cattle, Hollis owns and operates four poultry houses on land he inherited from his mother in Crawford County.
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