Lee County, SC, Small Farmer Comes Home
By Amy O. Maxwell, USDA-NRCS
Roachell Martin is a man who loves his home. In his case, home is definitely where the heart is, and Martin made that clear when he moved back to his birthplace of Woodrow, SC, in Lee County. Martin and his wife enjoy the peace and tranquility offered by the 10-acre small farm that they manage. “I was born right here, and this is where I wanted to come back to,” says Martin, his face lit with enthusiasm. This Danny Glover look-alike (he admits people have stopped him on the street to ask for autographs because of the resemblance he bears to the actor) doesn’t wish for a Hollywood lifestyle, because he loves taking care of the land and tending to his animals.
Martin previously farmed 150+ acres in Sumter County with this brother, but made the decision to come back to Woodrow. He received financial and technical assistance through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program under special assistance available to small-scale farmers, and from the Lee County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). Working together, the Lee County Conservation Partnership assisted Martin in installing a well, which made it easier for him to care for his livestock. Prior to getting the well, Martin’s livestock had to seek water out of a nearby stream. This threatened water quality, and made it difficult for Martin to ensure that his animals were getting the care that they needed. Furthermore, in order to compensate for lack of water, the Martin’s often sacrificed their own comfort by limiting the water use in their house. “There were times when we didn’t have water for ourselves, because we had to give it to our animals,” said Martin. “This was a situation where a family was giving up their quality of life in order to care for their livestock,” explained NRCS District Conservation Lori Bataller..
Another important part of the equation was the effort of NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Larry Garner. He served as a technical liaison between the well driller and Martin, ensuring that the work being done was accurate and timely. “Larry was so helpful in making sure that the Martin’s got what they needed, when they needed it,” explained Bataller. In addition, the Lee SWCD offered to front the cost for the well installation, which helped the Martin’s get the assistance that they needed immediately. Under the small-scale farmer assistance through EQIP, Martin is required to keep farm records which help him keep track of expenditures and nutrient application. His conservation plan also calls for installation of water troughs and reinforced areas, as well as implementation of rotational grazing.
Now that the well is functioning, Martin is excited about the ease of caring for his hogs, cows, goats, and chickens. In addition, he likes the idea of the recordkeeping. “It really helps me keep track of what I’m doing, and what I need to do in the future,” he explained.
The dedication of the Lee Conservation Partnership, and the conservation ethic of Martin, blended perfectly and resulted in a great conservation success story. Working together, these conservation stewards enabled a small farmer to improve his quality life, and protect soil and water quality.