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Baker County Success Stories

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Asian Farmer Named AAPI 2011 Farmer of the Year

Adam Nguyen is a self-proclaimed city boy who took a chance on a life in the country. “I closed my eyes and took the opportunity,” Nguyen remembered. That was five years ago. Now, the poultry farmer owns and operates AKC Poultry with his brothers Kevin and Charles. The broiler operation raises birds from birth to eight weeks old.

The Arlington farm consists of eight houses that hold 23,000 birds each. That’s 184,000 birds that live on the poultry farm during two months and that translates into tons of litter.

In Nguyen’s case, managing 20 tons of litter in a short amount of time became overwhelming. A fellow farmer suggested that Nguyen visit his local USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office to seek assistance in addressing his resource concerns. Soil Conservationist Eugene Barber in the Newton office was able to help Nguyen figure out a way to address his nutrient management and water quality concerns.               

Through a 2008 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contract, Nguyen has been able to construct a 40x65 square foot stackhouse on his property that helps him better manage his litter.               

“NRCS helped get the litter off the ground so it wouldn’t contaminate the water,” Nguyen explained. Before the stackhouse was built on the property, Nguyen wasn’t able to properly store the litter and they had to purify any water that they used from a nearby well.               

Nguyen and his brothers were also able to purchase an incinerator with the help of financial assistance provided through their EQIP contract. A destructor incinerator offers a better option for disposing of dead birds. By both burning the dead birds and decomposing of litter by using the stackhouse, Nguyen has decreased the chances of disease and bio-hazard contamination on the property.               

“They helped me try to have a cleaner water system and much better environment. And, we don’t have a problem with disease and all that,” Nguyen explained. Barber said, “He’s good. He’s on top of things. He is a good farm operator.”               

Because Nguyen is such a good farm operator and conservationist, he was selected by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Emphasis Program as the 2011 Farmer of the Year for the entire nation. “I thought that was pretty cool. I didn’t think I would win that.”               

Nguyen said he plans to use this recognition and his relationship with the NRCS to inform others on the importance of being a responsible farmer. “I can show future generations that you can make your place a cleaner and better place to live,” he explained.

Baker County is a designated StrikeForce county in Georgia. The USDA StrikeForce Initiative is designated to help relieve persistent poverty in high-poverty counties.

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New Well Saves Small Farmer’s Vegetable Operation

Johnny Long first tried farming as a hobby. He wanted an activity to keep him occupied during retirement. “My sister Lucille encouraged me to do this. Matter of fact, she pushed me to get into it,” Long said.

Soon after giving it a shot, he realized his hobby was going to take a lot of hard work. That was back in 2003. Now, eight years later, Long still recalls how tough it was for him to get his farming operation off the ground. Long said, “I couldn’t do anything. I burned up a well trying to get water to my crops.”

He became so discouraged that he admitted he stopped farming until he saw a silver lining. “I quit because I couldn’t afford to water it and then I figured out how to get some help,” he said.
Long’s sister, Lucille Benton, told him about the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and how the agency might be able to help him with his water problem.

When Long visited the local service center in Newton, Soil Conservationist Eugene Barber informed him about a program called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Barber encouraged Long to apply for the program. “Eugene went out of his way to help me. He pushed me to try to get assistance,” Long said.

Once Long was approved for EQIP, the financial assistance provided through the program helped him get a well installed on his farm. It includes a 220 gallon tank that pumps up to 60 gallons a minute to a solid-set irrigation system on Long’s five acres of vegetable crops. This new system has helped Long improve his operation that specializes in peas, cream crowder, purple hull, okra and ladyfingers.

“It is so much better. I can time it and go in the house and not worry about my crops getting water.” Not only was Long able to get a new and more energy efficient well for his farm, technical assistance has helped him with an irrigation water management plan. This plan focuses on documenting rainfall and when it is best to irrigate crops.

Pest management concerns have also been addressed through EQIP. Agricultural pest infestations were managed to reduce the adverse effects on plant growth, crop production and the environment. “Goodness, I can produce more,” Long explained. A nutrient management plan has helped Long with his goals of reaching optimum crop production by improving the chemical and biological condition of the soil.

Overall, Long said he is very happy with the technical and financial assistance provided by NRCS. “NRCS has helped a lot of black farmers come a long way.”

Baker County is a designated StrikeForce county in Georgia. The USDA StrikeForce Initiative is designed to help relieve persistent poverty in high-poverty counties.

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EQIP Helps Small Farmer Upgrade Operation

80-year-old Calip Johnson has seen a lot over the years and he has noticed that farming isn’t like it was when he first started. “There’s a lot more to farming than a tractor and pliers. Technology is really improving it,” Johnson explained.

A lack of technology almost prevented Johnson from doing what he loves; growing watermelons and selling them to folks in the Baker County community. Before Johnson found a way to make technology work for him, he struggled to irrigate his crops.

“I was trying to water 6.7 acres with a pipe and dragging a water hose around. I tried to raise watermelons but it wasn’t successful until I got water,” Johnson said. Through word of mouth, Johnson learned that the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) might be able to help him with his irrigation problem.

“I went to check it out and when I talked to Eugene Barber (Soil Conservationist), I found out I could do a lot better than dragging around a water hose,” Johnson said. After applying for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Johnson was approved for the program.

The program offers financial and technical assistance for farmers. In Johnson’s case, he received financial assistance for a solid-set irrigation system. Eugene Barber provided technical assistance by guiding Johnson on how to set up the system and operate it.

Barber said that Johnson not only followed all of the specifications, he did much of the installation work himself. “He’s determined. He has done a lot of work out there. He even put his own well in,” Barber said.

The solid-set system covers 6.7 acres where Johnson grows his cherished watermelons as well as turnips, mustard greens, corn, and peas. Now, instead of dragging a hose around to water his produce Johnson said, “I can stand up at the controls and send water to where I want it to go in the field. I just push a button.”

In the time that the solid-set irrigation has been set up on his small farm outside Newton, Johnson said he’s seen a big difference in his produce. “That irrigation sure paid off.”

Baker County is a designated StrikeForce county in Georgia. The USDA StrikeForce Initiative is designed to help relieve persistent poverty in high-poverty counties.

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