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Conquering Conservation at Belding Farms

story by Jaime Tankersley

The Trans-Pecos Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) all gathered at Belding Farms outside of Fort Stockton, Texas to welcome over 100 fifth-graders to the 22nd Annual Educational Field Day.

The agenda consisted of soils and erosion, plant identification, irrigation equipment and methods, pecan processing and harvesting. Students were in for a special treat as Jim Tinkler, Trans-Pecos SWCD Director, unloaded an authentic chuck wagon and demonstrated the cowboy art of Dutch oven cooking.

The field day originated over two decades ago responding to concerns within the county about the amount of water used to irrigate the 2,200-acre pecan orchard. Belding Farms Manager, Glenn Honaker, has always had an avid interest in water conservation. He wanted a way to share his interest and the farm's message.

Conservation practices at Belding Farms target the one resource that is scarce in the Trans-Pecos region: water. Measures to conserve water on the farm include acreage leveled for flood irrigation in level basins; irrigation pumps and power plants with a delivery system consisting of concrete lined canals and underground pipelines.

The farm also records monthly water well measurements and production levels. A soil moisture probe is used to monitor soil moisture levels and aid in scheduling irrigations.

Explaining these practices along with other means of conservation has been part of the field day's overall mission since its establishment.

The NRCS offered two stations during the field day, plant identification and soil and erosion. NRCS District Conservationist, Kyle Wright, and Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative Rangeland Specialist, Preston Irwin, headed up the stops and offered an interactive learning session.

As the day came to a close, students were served a hot dog lunch by the Trans-Pecos SWCD. Before loading the busses and returning to school, Belding Farms had one more stop in store for the participants. A tree harvesting demonstration was the last station for the annual field day. Everyone gathered at the orchard to watch as the harvesting machinery was put to work. The equipment "shook" the tree in a fashion that caused pecans to fall from the limbs. With bags in hand, students swarmed to the tree to collect the freshly fallen pecans.

As the 22nd Annual Fifth-Grade Educational Field Day came to an end, students returned to school not only with pecans, but a new found respect for conserving our natural resources.

NRCS District Conservationist, Kyle Wright, explains how soil is made, its contents and gives a basic analysis during the Belding Farms Annual 5th Grade Field Day. Concrete lined irrigation canals are one of many conservation practices utilized at Belding Farms, a 2,200 acre pecan orchard outside Ft. Stockton, Texas.

NRCS District Conservationist, Kyle Wright, explains how soil is made, its contents and gives a basic analysis during the Belding Farms Annual 5th Grade Field Day.

Concrete lined irrigation canals are one of many conservation practices utilized at Belding Farms, a 2,200 acre pecan orchard outside Ft. Stockton, Texas.

Glenn Honaker, Belding Farms manager, explains the variety of water conservation practices utilized on the farm during the Annual 5th Grade Field Day. GLCI Rangeland Management Specialist, Preston Irwin, helps students identify native plants during the Annual Belding Farms 5th Grade Field Day.

Glenn Honaker, Belding Farms manager, explains the variety of water conservation practices utilized on the farm during the Annual 5th Grade Field Day.

GLCI Rangeland Management Specialist, Preston Irwin, helps students identify native plants during the Annual Belding Farms 5th Grade Field Day.