Farm City awards: Conservationists

Alice and Aaron Granberry are the 2019 Conservationists of the Year.

In the early 1900s, Aaron Granberry Sr. purchased 655 acres of land. He raised cattle, cotton, peanuts and corn. After his death, the land was divided between his children.

Aaron Jr. and Alice moved to Marianna in the early 2000s. They inherited family land and purchased additional land to start a cattle operation. Having been born and raised in a major city, it was a different experience for Alice to move to the country where there was so much open land. She decided to do some research on raising cattle and became excited about the idea of raising their own herd. One of the key resource agencies Alice discovered was the Natural Resource Conservation Service or NRCS, and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program or EQIP that provides cost-share funds to install approved conservation practices.

The cattle herd was started with purchased momma cows and calves. Over the years, the Granberrys added young heifers to expand their herd, some of which are registered Angus. Today there are a total of 55 cows and two registered Angus bulls. As the herd grew there was a need for economical ways to provide feed in the most environmentally friendly means.

With the assistance of the EQIP cost sharing program, the Granberrys were able to take steps to ensure their cattle operation would be efficient, while also protecting the natural resources of their land. Through the EQIP program, the Granberrys installed the following conservation practices: a well and pumping plant to provide a water source for livestock, a pipe system and erosion resistant water troughs for livestock, cross fences to increase their number of grazing cells, and a prescribed grazing plan, along with improved forage plantings to reduce soil erosion and also increase forage production on the farm. They also fenced off sinkholes to prevent run off contamination, because their land is in the Blue Spring Basin.

GPS navigation is used on the tractors for precise fertilization and herbicide applications. The soil in the pastures and hay fields are tested every year prior to the spreading of any fertilizers, to ensure that only the necessary nutrients are added to the soil.

Each pasture is part of a rotation plan to prevent over-grazing. Manure is dragged after each rotation to prevent runoff and to quickly incorporate the nutrients back in the soil. The pastures are over-seeded with rye, ryegrass, and oats for winter grazing. While NRCS provided funding and technical assistance to develop the plans, the Granberrys recruited the help of their grandson, godson and temporary labor for installation of these practices.

The Granberrys are lifelong learners and are active members of the Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association. They regularly attend training classes provided by the Extension Service, Cattlemen’s Association, and USDA to enhance their knowledge and skills of recommended farm practices to improve efficiency and to protect the animals’ health and the environment. Alice received the training on the proper use and storage of chemicals to secure a restricted use pesticide license. They also annual attend the Sunbelt Ag to learn about new farm products and forage practices that are available in today’s market.

The Conservationist of the Year is selected each year by the staff of the Jackson District of the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). There is still time to apply for the EQIP Program for funding in 2020. Farmers are encouraged to stop by the NRCS Office on Penn Ave and meet Corey Ware, our new District Conservationist, and his staff to complete an application.

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