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Rockdale County Success Stories

Rockdale County Success Stories

Pritchard(PDF)(130 KB) html
Bird Sanctuary (PDF) (220 KB) html

Rockdale County Horse Farm Thrives With EQIP Funding

By Karen Buckley Washington, Lawrenceville

Rockdale County landowners Nigel and Cheryl Pritchard combined their agricultural and equine knowledge to create a wonderful marriage - with one another and on their farm.

Prior to meeting in 2001, Nigel relocated from England to Atlanta and worked in the fast-paced corporate environment at CNN. Equally, Cheryl held impressive roles with Coca-Cola, as well as other corporate giants. Yet, both dreamed of living out their passion for farming.

Nigel has an agricultural background, holding academic credentials from a top agricultural college in England and serving on the agriculture training board at the Agriculture Ministry of England. Cheryl has extensive horse farming experience from her upbringing in Lexington, KY. In 2004, they purchased their new farm, even holding their wedding in their barn.

Simply Dun Farm is a 34.5 acre property in Conyers. The property had been vacant for about 5 years, so the Pritchard's began working to put in new fencing as well as assessing their pasture land and water resources.

"We have a number of lakes on the property, three in particular and the climate is such in Georgia where it can be in the hundreds in the summer, to strangely, snow in the winter, to torrential rain sometimes," said Nigel. "So, erosion was something that I was concerned about. We were very keen to know that we were in a water conservation area. When you’re working with horses, most are inside at night and outside during the day, so we had a situation where we wanted to make sure that we had proper concrete paths put in. We wanted to be able to get water to the fields because horses drink gallons and gallons of water and using hose pipes across 32 acres becomes difficult (laughter)."

The Pritchard's knew that conservation resources for landowners with their concerns existed, but Cheryl’s Internet searches didn’t yield the results they were seeking. While attending a conservation workshop on another farm in their area, Cheryl met District Conservationist, Jerome Brown, with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and began to find solutions to their concerns.

With incentives through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Pritchard’s installed heavy use areas, a watering facility and cross fencing. By using cross fencing, the Pritchard's are able to fence off watering areas, allowing them to use more of the land than before. This has improved the water quality of their ponds when it rains.

Today, the Pritchard's have left corporate America behind and dedicated themselves to their farm full time. Simply Dun Farm offers horse boarding in their custom built facility, camps for children, fishing and events. They also have formed a nonprofit organization that offers horse education to autistic children.

"We’re lucky enough to work with NRCS and have proper water systems put in place which has made a big difference for us," said Nigel. "Once we found NRCS and the door was opened, it’s been wonderful. They’ve offered a lot of communication – a lot of feedback. They’ve taken a real interest in what we’re doing here. We’re not just a number, we’re real people. They have ideas and they also listen to what we have. They’re willing to be flexible and adapt to those ideas. That makes a big difference."

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New Wetland Wildlife Preserve to Establish Bird Sanctuary in Rockdale County        

A wetland wildlife preserve is being created next to the South River at Panola Mountain State Conservation Park in Rockdale County. This project will establish a sanctuary for birds including Sandhill cranes and wetland wildlife along a migratory flyway in Georgia where little suitable habitat remains. It will also create accessible wildlife observation and education opportunities for the residents of metro-Atlanta.

Funding for this project has been provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Southern Company in the form of a $55,000 grant to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Historic Sites and Division of Wildlife Resources. The Parks Division will match the gift with $55,000 making a total of $110,000 available to create the wetland wildlife preserve.

The Griffin office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is designing a constructed wetland to impound 8-10 acres of shallow water within the 30-acre project site. Food plots will be grown to provide sustenance for flocks of migrating birds in the fall. The wetland design will allow water levels to be managed to flood the food plots in the winter to complement natural bird migration and provide habitat for winter waterfowl.

The proximity to the South River, 70 acres of upland meadow and borders of mixed hardwood forest surrounding the site make the creation of this wetland especially valuable. The Panola Mountain wetland project was facilitated by the Upper Ocmulgee River RC&D Council, which recruited Elaine Nash about three years ago to provide leadership to a worthy project that could be developed as a memorial to the late Edward T. Alexander.

Mr. Alexander was a prominent Rockdale County Landscape Architect and RC&D Board member. This project grew out of the studies, the miles of hiking and the days of meetings conducted by Elaine and her work group. In addition to Georgia DNR and RC&D, assistance is being provided by USDA/NRCS, Audubon Society (Atlanta Chapter), Steven M. Jones-Environmental Services Inc., Rockdale County Soil and Water Conservation District, Georgia Native Plant Society and the Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance.

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