Terrell's Faust, Monroe's Vaughn receive conservation awards
Compiled by Georgia Farm Bureau
Terrell County farmer Robbie Faust was named 2021 Conservationist of the Year by the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts and Monroe County farmer James Vaughn was honored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association as its Region II Environmental Stewardship Award winner.
Faust, owner of Bellflower Farms located in Dawson, is a third-generation farmer. He and his family farm 1,800 acres, growing cotton, corn, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. Their conservation practices include taking measures to improve water quality and soil health, reduce the amount of water, fertilizer and other inputs used and maintain healthy wildlife and aquatic habitats on their property.
Soil health is a primary factor for the Fausts in making their planting and management decisions. All the cotton and corn grown on their farm is strip-tilled, resulting in reduced soil disturbance and erosion potential. Utilizing cereal rye as a cover crop also helps provide soil stability and capture some nutrients from the previous year’s cash crop. Additionally, soybeans and wheat are both planted with a no-till drill to disturb the least amount of soil or residue possible.
Beginning in the fall of 2020, Faust entered into a partnership with the Lower Chattahoochee Soil and Water Conservation District, Golden Triangle Resource Conservation and Development Council, UGA Extension and USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to participate in a multi-year cover crop outreach and education project. The Faust Family planted one of their irrigated fields into multiple cover crop research and demonstration plots to compare fertility, water use, yield and other factors across a variety of treatments. The 65-acre site has also been used to host education and outreach field days during 2021.
Beyond activities related to soil health, Faust uses low-pressure, drip-nozzle irrigation systems, participates in Georgia’s agricultural metering program capitalizes on programs offered through NRCS and numerous other conservation practices
Vaughn was one of seven cattle operations recognized as Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) regional winners for their environmental conservation efforts during the 2022 Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show in Houston, Texas. The regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be presented during NCBA's Summer Business Meeting in Reno, Nevada, July 25-28, 2022.
Regional ESAP winners come from every corner of the country and undertake stewardship efforts unique to their environment, landscape and resources.
Vaughn, his wife, children and sister manage Vaughn Farms, tending nearly 5,600 acres which are devoted to producing forage crops, providing pastureland for their cattle, and managing timberland for pulp, lumber and energy production. The family-owned farm is committed to protecting the watershed by controlling cattle access to flowing streams, distributing grazing pressure with rotational grazing systems, tending hayfields and pastures with proper fertilization and weed control practices, and managing timberland using best management practices.
These environmental stewardship practices have made significant improvements to protected stream banks which are now fully vegetated, established clean areas for watering cattle and the full coverage of year-round grasses protect the soil from erosion and the streams from sedimentation. The Vaughns also host a variety of groups to further educate the public about the benefits of agriculture and to explain their sustainable production and environmental practices.