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Conservation Education at the Bass Tree Farm

ChildrenCowHenry “Bubba” Bass has the best birthday party in May of every year. His party includes over 300 school aged children, natural resources speakers from across the state, and a delicious birthday cake. This party is like none other as Bubba and his wife, Hortense plan and host the event for the community. However, the party is not solely about Bubba. The birthday parties or field days center on students from the local community learning about natural resources, while having fun.

Since 2001, Bubba and Hortense Bass have voluntarily hosted field days on their tree farm in Monticello, Mississippi. The couple’s main focus is the educational experience for local students as they interact with presenters. The students, grades 2-8, come from six public schools in the Lawrence and Lincoln County areas and also a homeschooled group. At the two-day event, the students migrate to different stations that include forestry, beekeeping, ATV safety, and gun safety. Activities such as archery, tree cutting, paper making, and obstacle courses allow students to be engulfed in the learning and enjoyment of natural resources. The stations are facilitated by partners, and through the donations and the Bass’ personal funds, breakfast and lunch is always provided.

The five generation timber farm has been in the Bass family since 1847. Bubba Bass began purchasing pieces of the family’s land in 1975 as he worked as a lineman around the country and the world with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The first timber plantation was planted in 1988, and the Bass couple returned home in 1990 to tendArcheryStudents to the land.

Since some of the land had previously been used for cattle, the Basses were unsure how profitable the timber plantation would be. After contacting the Mississippi State Extension Service, Mr. and Mrs. Bass learned of the opportunities that could stem out of proper management of the timber plantation.

“When we came home, he went back to work. I told myself, ‘we paid a lot of money for this place,’ it’s going to have to start paying us back. So, I started going to all these meetings and sure enough we found out about all these programs available for the farmers,” said Hortense.

Since the mid-90s, the couple has received assistance through the USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Incentive payments were used for controlled burning and spraying of herbicide for weed control. They have also created habitat suitable for wildlife. They have a pond on the land, and Bubba built bat houses to place throughout the property and provide to other landowners.

For 10 years, the Bass farm has been classified as a Certified Tree Farm, and in 2016, Bubba Bass was awarded Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year by the Mississippi Forestry Association.

The Bass coupleHortenseBass1 not only utilize the information they have learned from NRCS, but they also serve as walking billboards for the agency. As Earth Team Volunteers, they pass out conservation literature to churches, organizations, and individuals, and they also send community members to the local NRCS field office in Lawrence County. Mrs. Bass prides herself in keeping pamphlets and brochures in her car because she never knows when she may need to spread the word.

“In my car, I’m a traveling advertisement. If I hear of anybody that needs help with a pond or trees, I give them the literature,” said Hortense.

The Basses have served on local boards in the community, including the Lawrence County Forest Association and the Lawrence County Soil and Water Conservation Districts Board.

Sarah Fleming, Soil Conservationist in Lawrence County, appreciates the selfless efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Bass. She works with the Bass couple on their field days. “Many kids do not know where paper comes from or how important trees are for the air, water and soils.   These field days can provide students with information they may not receive otherwise,” said Fleming.Sarah Fleming

After 48 years of marriage, the Bass couple rely on the power of prayer to touch the lives of those in which they come in contact, but most importantly, the lives of children.

Bubba said, “We love the kids. Every year some little kid will do something that you never forget.”

The couple is overjoyed when students express their gratitude for the field day experience, especially when they have graduated from high school. Their hope is to continue the event for years to come.

Hortense stated, “We want to be the example of landowners that use these programs and how they have helped us.”

Bubba agreed. “The main thing we want to let the people know is that the [NRCS, along with] Sarah and Allen, have always helped us,” said Bubba. “We have been very blessed from people who wanted to help us. We do love the kids.”