On Thursday, August 17, 2017 the Giles County Soil Conservation District (GCSCD) met with local landowners and guests in recognizing outstanding conservation achievements of several Giles County Farmers. The GCSCD board selected individuals in four categories where landowners have made a difference with their land management practices. The SCD starts with taking an overall look at farmers that qualify for each category, their commitment to conservation and how those landowners impact the conservation community as a whole. The categories are: Conservation Farmer of the Year, Soil Health Farmer of the Year, Forage Manager of the Year, and Wildlife Manager of the Year.
The 2016 Conservation Farmer of the Year was Mayfield Farms. Mike Mayfield and his family operate a commercial grain and cattle farm in Giles County. They are dedicated No-Tillers during a time when many other row croppers are moving to turbo till systems. The Mayfields are implementing Soil Health practices on their farm crop and pasture lands which combines soil chemistry, soil biology and plant dynamics to build organic matter, mange soil moisture and nutrients, and builds a natural resistance to seeds and pests which limits costs associated with traditionally high use pesticides. They have followed an intensive prescribed grazing system on their farm rotating a herd of Registered Black Angus in a 10 paddock system including cool season mixed forages and small grain annuals. They also manage mixed forages, alfalfa and hybrid Bermuda grass for hay. Their corn, wheat and bean operation incorporates mixed species cover crops, no-till and residue management. The Mayfield’s are active in many agricultural, civic and youth organizations in Giles County.
The 2016 Forage Manger of the Year is Rex Miles. Rex and Nancy Miles are members of the Bodenham Community in Western Giles County and manage quality hay, livestock and timber operation. Rex has actively pursued the use of wrapped bale haylage which improves the total quality of the harvested crop and increases palatability of forages. Rex has managed multiple species hay crops including hybrid bermuda, warm season annuals, ryegrass and fescue. His grazing operation is based on Registered Black Angus cattle utilizing mixed cool season forages and bermuda grass. Rex Miles has been actively involved in the community and Rex has served on many local county boards and actively supported the Forestry and livestock industry in our area.
The 2016 Wildlife Manager of the Year is Ralph McCurry. Gadadi Farm (Native American term for a place to be taken care of) is located south of Minor Hill on the Tennessee-Alabama state line. Sugar Creek meanders through the farm which Ralph has developed into a wildlife haven. Managing the southern section mostly for waterfowl there are several perennial impoundments, row cropped fields, native grass and pollinator plantings, a flashboard riser type wetland flooded annually in the fall and several acres of hardwood tree plantings Ralph has established in a managed wetland. Hardwood forests create a band through the center of the farm with several diverse crop fields and grasslands managed on the northern end of the farm for Deer, Turkey and Quail habitat.
The 2016 Soil Health Farmer of the Year is James McCormack. Soil Health is a new focus for Conservation and is the direction we are going in targeting what happens within the field just beyond soil erosion. Soil Health encompasses the biological component within the soil and ties in the living system and how we in agriculture can utilize that system to cycle nutrients, increase water infiltration, water retention, organic matter and obtain better pest control for diseases, insects and weeds while reducing the expense or dependence of chemical nutrients and pesticides. Managing for soil health takes a commitment to understand the science behind it and taking the steps to see it through. Any time you look at a significant shift in cultural practices associated with production it takes a strong will and leadership to make it a success. James McCormack has embraced this change and has been utilizing the new technologies associated with soil health management, particularly in the use of multiple species cover crops and continuous no-till planting all of his acreage.
We congratulate these farmers for their commitment to conservation and leadership in agriculture within our Giles County community. We hope their hard work and dedication will help others within the county make the decision to improve their land management and conservation ethic. Leaving the land better than we found it is a common saying and goal for these conservationist. Thank you to all who support the efforts of these landowners and the Giles Soil Conservation District.