Freeman Named Alabama NRCS Small Farmer of the Year Award
AUBURN, Ala., September 13, 2013 –
Thomas Freeman (center) and his wife, Mary, accept the 2014 Alabama NRCS Small Farmer of the Year Award presented by (l-r) Terry Cosby, NRCS Acting Southeast Regional Conservationist and Dr. William Puckett, Alabama NRCS State Conservationist.
Thomas Freeman of Colbert County was named the Alabama Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Small Farmer of the Year for FY2014. A plaque and an engraved clock was presented to him and his wife, Mary, by Terry Cosby, NRCS Acting Southeast Regional Conservationist and Dr. William Puckett, Alabama NRCS State Conservationist, at the Federation of Southern Cooperative’s 46th Annual Meeting, in Epes, Alabama, in August.
“People like Thomas and Mary Freeman make our conservation work rewarding,” said Dr. Puckett. “We are pleased to honor them with this award."
The Freeman farming enterprises are diverse and include growing vegetables and raising cattle. To address his natural resource concerns, he sought technical and financial assistance through NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).
To grow fresh vegetables for his family and the community, as well as supply additional income, he received financial assistance to install a 72 foot by 30 foot Seasonal High Tunnel, or hoop house. In it he grows cabbage, savoy cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and collards. The hoop house adds many benefits to the land including energy reduction, increased water quality (with reductions in pesticides and nutrient inputs and outputs), and improved soil quality.
They finished the hoop house last year and planted cool-weather crops this year. Freeman wants to add a heating system to grow tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and other warm weather crops throughout the winter."
Freeman also owns a cattle operation with grazing land that needed many conservation practices. In the past five years, participating in USDA-NRCS programs, he installed cross fencing, a watering facility with a heavy use area, a well with pipeline, and planted grass in his pastures.
The Freemans enjoy sharing the farming knowledge they have acquired. They host field days, demonstration workshops, and other educational events on their farm. Thomas is a member of the county EQIP Work Group that makes decisions for the conservation activities of the local NRCS/SWCD office.
Farming and raising cattle is not Freeman’s only job. He also delivers large trucks for Bennett International and is known for his good heart and soul singing. Freeman is quick to inform people that his God-given talent is singing. In addition to being a good steward of the land, Freeman also wants to spread the gospel through his singing as he travels the nation delivering trucks.
Matthew Copeland, Colbert County NRCS District Conservationist, says, “Mr. Freeman is living in harmony with nature and mankind. He is truly making an impact on the earth. He is working to make his Colbert County farm a better place than when he obtained it. That will carry over for generations to come.”