Smith County Success Story
Although now abandoned but not forgotten, the old farmhouse where Hillman Vinson grew up still stands on the 180-acres of family land in Smith County. Today he has a new home built on the family land and a new profession managing 60 head of cattle. The past seven years have been quite an adventure for him with the new commercial cattle operation on the land. Thankfully, his background in construction, electrical and plumbing repairs, poultry operation management, and the ability to “fix just about anything that needs fixing” on the farm has enabled him to survive and prosper quite well with his new venture. An excellent relationship with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has also been a major contributing factor in his success!
Mr. Vinson has been on quite a journey during his lifetime. For a number of years, right out of high school, he worked in the construction business in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He decided it was time to come back to Mississippi and attend college at Mississippi State University. With a degree in poultry science, he managed poultry operations for about 25 years. He then settled back on the family land which is 95 percent pastureland; and for the past seven years he has been at home happily managing his cattle.
“Getting started in the cattle business is a challenge these days, both financially and in dealing with issues on the land itself,” stated Mr. Vinson. The first thing Mr. Vinson was up against was dealing with little or no fences--the cattle roamed freely and ultimately overgrazed on their favorite pastures. In addition, there were not enough watering facilities available, and weeds and soil erosion were major issues.
Seeking assistance from NRCS was a brilliant choice for Mr. Vinson. Nathan Tadlock, Supervisory District Conservationist in the NRCS Raleigh Field Office, and other staff including previous Soil Conservation Technician Julie Bradford and District Conservationist Ron Read have all assisted him through NRCS’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and conservation technical assistance. “In this business, you need good people to help you,” stated Mr. Vinson. “I could not have made it financially without their help, especially during the time when the beef industry was hurting.”
Mr. Vinson was encouraged to submit applications with NRCS which were ultimately approved and implemented for several conservation practices over the past seven years including:
Heavy Use Area Protection
Herbaceous Weed Control
Located on the land is a beautiful 10-acre lake that Mr. Vinson was able to build himself with a lot of encouragement from his daughter, Kim. It was primarily built as a secondary water source. NRCS was able to assist with a pipeline that runs beneath the lake to supply water for four watering facilities (troughs) on the property. The lake has also been a great place for fishing, celebrating with fireworks on holidays with grandkids, and family recreation.
Installing the fencing has been one of the most important conservation practices carried out on the farm because it has given Mr. Vinson the ability to rotationally graze his pastures. Mr. Vinson has also been able to cut and bale more hay on pastures left alone for a while, which in turn has helped him financially.
Mr. Vinson has become a successful commercial cattle producer and land manager, and stated, “I couldn’t have been this successful without the help of such good people.” One day he hopes to increase his herd size from 60 to 75.
NRCS hopes to be a part of Mr. Vinson’s future endeavors in keeping the farm in great shape. As he stated, “One day I hope to be able to put the farm on automatic pilot!
Story and photos by Judi Craddock