Phill Dawson, Janice Weiss, Edwin Hogan, Darwin Newton, David Shores, Wynne Luter and Chase Coakley post with Farmer of the Year recipients Jonathan & Judith Smith.

Phill Dawson, Janice Weiss, Edwin Hogan, Darwin Newton, David Shores, Wynne Luter and Chase Coakley pose with Farmer of the Year recipients Jonathan & Judith Smith.

The Cheatham County Soil Conservation District and Janice Weiss, District Secretary/Tech hosted a Pasture Walk and Awards Day on May 3rd  at “Happily Ever After Farm” on Old Clarksville Pike in Joelton (owners: Jonathan & Judith Smith).  About 65 landowners were welcomed by the District Chairman, David Shores.  During the pasture walk attendees were given information on Management Intensive Grazing, Marketing Grass Fed Beef, Multi Species Grazing, Certified Organic vs. All Natural, Soil Health, Large Animal Composting and Cost Share Assistance Programs. Talks were given by Ronnie Barron, UT Extension; Ron Holland, UT Extension; Rachel Upton, TN Ag Enhancement; Wynne Luter, NRCS District Conservationist; Chase Coakley, NRCS Soil Conservationist. Special Guests included: Mike Turner, Farm Service Agency; Kevin Brown, State Conservationist NRCS; John McClurken, TDA Water Resource Manager; Jim Nance, Retired TDA Manager.

Following the pasture walk the district supervisor’s grilled grass fed beef burgers that came from the Smith’s farm. After lunch the District announced their “2012 Conservation Farmer of the Year” award winner was Jonathan D. Smith. About six years ago divine circumstances led to the purchase of his existing farm, which under former ownership the property was used for horse pasture; live stock had unlimited access to the pond and creek, and pastures were overgrazed and compacted. Jonathan attended Master Beef Producer classes and became a Master Beef Producer.  In 2010, Mr. Smith began participating with the Cheatham County Soil Conservation District and Natural Resource Conservation Service.  Since then we have partnered to produce a Forest Management Plan that developed management strategies to meet his conservation and economic forest goals. We have worked extensively together in the development of infrastructure needed to facilitate a prescribed grazing system. Practices have included: permanent and temporary cross fencing, livestock water well and a solar powered pumping plant, livestock pipeline and watering facilities.  Mr. Smith has balanced his livestock stocking rate and rotates his cattle on a one to three day basis so to maximize forage growth. He has taken it upon himself to exclude his livestock from natural surface water sources.  His pastures have been inter-seeded with legumes and pollination has been improved by keeping two hives of bees on the property. A group of layer hens and multiple crops of broiler chickens are rotated behind cattle; a great method for cycling nutrients and producing some healthy chickens. The culmination of the Smith’s efforts has allowed them to now offer grass-finished USDA certified beef, pastured poultry, and free range organic eggs.  None of the animals are given antibiotics or hormones. Farm management practices follow organic guidelines. The Smith’s believe firmly in the principle of growing healthy natural foods. Mr. Smith has recently applied for the USDA-NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program in an effort to further improve his farm.

The Cheatham County Soil Conservation District is also proud to announce the election of Darwin Newton of Pleasant View to the District Board.  Darwin has a BS in Agriculture and Biology, and a MS in Plant Physiology. He is currently employed by Western Ky University working with University and USDA Agriculture Research Service in Animal Waste Management Research and is the President and CEO of Soil Search of Tennessee Inc. (Enviromental Consulting Company).

The following sponsors made this day a great success…Cheatham County Farm Bureau, H & R Agri-Power, Reeves Septic Tank Service, King Automotive, Tn Ag Enhancement, Natural Resource Conservation Service, UT Extension, TN Department of Agriculture.