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Effingham County Success Stories

Daughtry (PDF) (214 KB) html
Morel (PDF) (204 KB) html

Organic Farmer Benefits from EQIP Assistance

Shirley Daughtry knows how to take a little and grow it into something bigger and better. Her patience and dedication to organic farming has made it possible to develop a very small operation into a successful business. She runs Heritage Organic Farms in Springfield.

Daughtry first started farming after she bought a few acres in Effingham County more than 30 years ago. “I bought this in 1980 and it was just a blank soybean field,” Daugherty said. By 1990, Daughtry had become Georgia’s very first certified organic farmer. Even though this was a big accomplishment for the small farmer, Daughtry was having a tough time managing resources on her farm.

Her big concerns were water management, soil erosion and nutrient management. After learning about the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through her involvement with Georgia Organics, Daughtry applied for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Once she was approved for a contract, Daughtry was able to address her resource concerns. First, she was able to build a solid-set irrigation system on 1.5 acres of the small farm. Daughtry was also able to save money on cover crops. “I was spending so much on cover crop seeds. NRCS helped cut that expense,” Daughtry explained. Cover crops help cut down on soil erosion and specific types such as clover can provide added nutrients to the soil.

These nutrients can improve plant growth. Rotating cover crops also helps in pest management. By rotating different types of crops in a field through the seasons, pests can be better controlled. Daughtry is especially pleased with the results she has seen from building a small hoop house on her farm. “It (EQIP) works. You see results. I’ve experienced less soil erosion and an increase in sales. The hoop house controls wind and rain; lessens stress on plants and essentially increases production.”

Daughtry added, “Our sales went up by $1,000 by adding this hoop house.” NRCS Soil Conservationist, Phil Hall has worked with Daughtry on her conservation plans and said, “She’s a wonderful lady. She is really up on organics and she shares her story with other organic farmers and tells them how NRCS helps.”

Daughtry is also interested in teaching future generations about the importance of conserving our natural resources and sharing her views on growing organically. “If we don’t do something, we are going to run out of food. Future generations need to know the reality of what we’re dealing with now,” Daugherty said.

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Diversification Keeps Operation Profitable

Bucky Morel is a third generation farmer who owns and manages Winfield Farms in Effingham County. He is continuing the family operation that was started by his grandfather T.W. Morel.
The Morel family has worked with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Ogeechee River Soil and Water Conservation District for many years. Bucky’s Grandfather T.W. Morel started working with NRCS in the 1950’s on projects to improve drainage on his farm. T.W. Morel was honored as the 1955 Effingham County conservationist of the year for his work in conservation.
The farm currently has 900 acres of corn, grain sorghum, hay, peanuts and soybeans and 300 head of Black Angus cattle. Winfield Farms has always utilized diversification to improve their profits. Morel’s Father and Grandfather grew hogs in years past to supplement their income from their row crop and cattle operation. In 2006, Morel decided to further diversify his farming operation by purchasing heavy equipment to construct irrigation ponds and clear land. He also purchased a sawmill to cut lumber to supplement his income and use on the farm.

When Soil Conservationist Phil Hall visited the Morel family farm he saw where Morel needed help. “Morel was having water quality issues where he watered his cattle. The cows had killed the grass that surrounded the water trough. When the tanks ran over and when it rained, the area around the troughs became degraded with mud and manure. Mr. Morel had the same problems where he was feeding his cattle. He was not getting uniform grazing,” said Hall.

“Morel had several areas on his farm that were causing water quality issues. I discussed best management practices alternatives with Mr. Morel that would reduce these issues. We discussed possible cost share through the Ebenezer Creek 319 Project as well as Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP),” Hall said.

Morel’s applications were accepted and he utilized EQIP, 319 grants and Partners for Wildlife Program to install conservation practices such as cover crops, minimum tillage, heavy use areas, stream crossings and use-exclusion fencing. He manages the wildlife on his farm by not harvesting part of the grain crop along the edges of his fields and by planting sunflowers. He manages his timber by removing damaged and diseased trees. These trees are milled at his sawmill and used on the farm. Bucky also plans to retrofit his pivots to make them more efficient.

Morel likes EQIP and the 319 Project because they have allowed him, “to install conservation practices that improved the natural resources on the farm. The financial assistance they provided allowed me to address the conservation issues in a timely matter providing the farm with many great benefits. The cross fencing has allowed me to prescribe graze and has improved my pastures health and quality; the concrete heavy use area has cut down the mud and manure problems I was having around my watering and feeding areas; I was able to fence my cattle out of the pond, which was close to a large wetland, and replace it with a new watering facility with fresh water,” said Morel.

Morel recommends the NRCS and its partners to his friends and neighbors. He says, “conservation not only helps protect and improve our natural resources but also makes farms, more efficient and profitable.”

Morel’s conservation philosophy started when he was a child. “I remember my grandfather and father working with NRCS on conservation practices. My family taught me the value of natural resources and how important it was to enhance and protect them. I will soon become a father for the first time and I plan to teach him the values and importance of natural resources.
I hope he continues the conservation work that my grandfather, father and I have installed on our family farm and also teaches other generations about our most valuable asset, natural resources,” said Morel.

In 2009, Bucky Morel became the second member of the Morel family to win the Effingham County Conservationist of the Year.

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