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Ensuring Biodiversity NRCS and Farmers Improve Tennessee Water Quality

Recently featured as one of the most bio-diverse waterways in the United States by National Geographic Magazine, the Duck River provides drinking water for 250,000 people in Middle Tennessee. The health of this integral water supply depends largely on the quality of the many tributaries that flow into its waters throughout the mid-state. Belle Meadow Farms is a typical farm operation located along one of the many tributaries in Bedford County. Charles Gavin and Mark McBryant, owner and farm manager of Belle Meadow Farms, saw the need to protect and improve 2-1/2 miles of Garrison Fork, one of the main tributaries running through their 599 acre beef cattle farm. Using the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), they installed:

  • 15 acres of riparian forest buffers to reduce excess amounts of sediment, nutrients, and chemicals from entering the streams. This is equal to a 35 foot buffer running along both sides of the stream for 9,335 feet or 1.75 miles.
  • 6,700 feet of cross fencing to create a rotational grazing system. These systems help to improve or maintain the health and vigor of the forage base, reduce soil erosion, and improve stream water quality and quantity.
  • 26,400 feet of livestock exclusion fencing to prevent livestock from entering the stream and damaging the stream banks.
  • 3,600 feet of pipeline to provide water to six troughs as part of an alternative watering system. This system provides clean fresh water to animals at critical locations to facilitate rotational grazing.


Riparian forest buffer and cross fencing on Belle Meadow Farms reduce soil erosion and improve stream water quality.

NRCS financial assistance through EQIP helped apply conservation practices on more than 158,000 acres and provided $21.7 million to local communities throughout Tennessee. Assistance through EQIP has infused $792,900 into Bedford County’s economy alone.