Published on 03/21/07

Perdue presents Georgia farmer conservation award

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

For almost 150 years, a Harris has farmed the Screven, Ga., land that's home to Greenview Farms. This week, Gov. Sonny Perdue recognized Jonny Harris and his family for their faithful care with the second annual Governor's Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Award.

"I can't tell you how exciting it is to see all the support for our state's largest industry," Perdue said in a National Agriculture Week ceremony March 20.

Perdue honored five Georgia farms that use outstanding environmental practices.

"It's my pleasure to honor these farmers for their good stewardship," he said. "Our farmers work hard to protect the environment and preserve our resources, and we're happy to recognize these farm families for their efforts today."

Besides Harris, regional winners were David Brown of Longview Cattle Farm in Senoia, Chan Cabe of Cabe Brothers Farm in Carnesville, Glenn Waller of Waller Farm in Harrison and Don Register of Don Register Farm in Chula.

Harris said the state honor "goes back to my ancestry. We've worked on this land for 140 years. My ancestors tried to do the right things, and we try to do the right things."

He and the other honorees showed they're willing to make personal sacrifices to go beyond what's required to meet environmental standards.

"It has challenges," Harris admitted. "We look at so many things we're doing now that are the opposite of what was done before. We see the value of changing those practices and the good that comes from it. They're expensive to do, some of them."

Harris said the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and other state and federal agencies help them do some things. "But the majority of them we do essentially by ourselves," he said. "They're things we need to do, and with their help, we know what to do to improve the quality of our land."

Greenview Farms is divided almost equally among timber, pastures and cultivated land. They grow hay, peanuts, cotton, corn and other crops and raise beef cattle.

"In 1942 my parents, Winton and Emily Harris, established what is now known as Greenview Polled Hereford Farms, Inc.," Harris said. "My father began a Polled Hereford cattle herd, and we continue to raise Polled Herefords today. That makes Greenview Farms the oldest, continuously active Polled Hereford breeder in Georgia. Hard work and determination have helped to make this family operation a success."

"Mr. Harris serves as a model farmer," said Rita Barrow, NRCS district conservationist. "His love and concern for his land, as well as his pride in ownership, are evident as soon as you enter his property.

"His land and cattle reflect his concern for conservation," she said. "He's actively working to limit access of his cattle to wetlands with exclusion fencing, and he's installed a manure storage facility to help maintain water quality in Reedy Creek.

"He has installed heavy-use concrete pads under hay rings and water troughs to maintain water quality and prevent soil erosion," she said. "He regularly rotates his cattle throughout numerous paddocks to maintain soil and water quality and to provide quality forage for his cattle."

Greenville Farms uses conservation tillage on cropland to prevent erosion and maintain water quality.

"He has a Forest Stewardship Plan, and he regularly thins and prescribe-burns his forest lands to maintain forest health and increase wildlife habitat," Barrow said. "Mr. Harris treats all of his resources well and implements best-management practices in all of his farm activities."

The award is sponsored by the Governor's Agriculture Advisory Commission. It was developed to recognize farmers in five state regions who use conservation and best-management practices day-to-day to protect and conserve natural resources. Last year's winner, the inaugural year, was Petty's Dairy in Chatsworth.

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.