2014 Cheatham Co Soil Health Field Day

On Friday, July 11th , 2014  the Cheatham County Soil Conservation District and Janice Weiss, District Secretary/Technician hosted their annual field day at the Roy Flowers’ farm in Cheap Hill.  This year’s theme was “Soil Health” which is a very important part of maintaining long term productivity of the land, water, etc. while increasing quality, quantity and diversity of crops. The meeting began at 9am with a welcome from the Cheatham County Soil Conservation District Chairman, David Shores.  Special Guests included David McCullough, Cheatham County Mayor; John Holder, Cheatham County Sheriff; Mike Hart, NRCS Area Conservationist; Wayne Pressler, Tennessee Department of Agriculture; Ronnie Barron, UT Extension Director; Mike Turner, Farm Service Agency; and Tony Young, H & R Agri-Power.  There were approximately 60 landowners in attendance.

Field Day training included talks and demonstrations from the following:  Darwin Newton, with Western Kentucky University & member of the Soil Conservation District board spoke on the “History of Soil Health”, and demonstrated  Slake and Infiltration Tests, Ronnie Barron of UT Extension covered Pasture Herbicide Applications, Greg Brann, Natural Resource Conservation Service discussed ‘Managing Productive Pastures & Soils” and demonstrated the rainfall simulator so that landowners could see firsthand what happens to the soil without cover crops; Eric Copas, Natural Resource Conservation Service spoke on Strip-Till and No-Till Tobacco, Trials and Considerations; Chase Coakley, Natural Resource Conservation Service spoke on Conservation Planning for Healthy Soils and Conservation Programs that are available to help landowners.

Brisket sandwiches and fresh fried apple pies were provided for lunch.  Following lunch Conservation Awards were given for:  2013 Conservation Farmer of the Year, Cason Hayes; 2013 Wildlife Conservation Award, Erik Metzger;  Years of Service pins were presented to David Shores, for 25 years and Michael Justice, for 10 years of dedicated service to the Cheatham County Soil Conservation District.

The following sponsors that  made this a great success were as follows:  Farm Bureau, H & R Agri-Power, Tn Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Serivce, Shadow Effects, Soil Search of TN Inc.,  Cheatham/Robertson Co CO-OP, Roy Flowers & John Justice.  Big thanks to our volunteers:  Amy Clifton-Dickson Co SCD; Carol Edwards-Davidson Co SCD and Jessie Anderson-Robertson Co SCD.

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More photos posted on Activity Photos page.

2013 Wildlife Conservation Award

Erik Metzger

Cheatham County SCD

2013 Wildlife Conservation Award

Passion can drive a person to accomplish a many great things. It is nothing less than passion that has enabled Mr. Erik Metzger to maximize wildlife conservation on his 283 acre property in Cheatham County Tennessee. Many of us in central Tennessee are proud to call ourselves sportsmen or hunters, but within that crowd of outdoor enthusiast there are few that can match the dedication to land management and wildlife conservation that Mr. Metzger has achieved. In 2008 Mr. Metzger began a partnership with the Cheatham County Soil Conservation District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop a plan that would benefit wildlife on his property. Over the years many practices have been implemented across the open and forested areas. There is not one acre on the property that hasn’t received some form of management treatment to improve its productivity for forest health and wildlife habitat.

Beginning with the open land Mr. Metzger has converted an open landscape dominated by introduced grasses into a matrix of diverse habitats. The open acres are now managed in carefully planned and placed units of perennial and annual food plots that provide year-round food sources. Established native warm season grasses and forbs provide bedding, nesting, brood rearing, and fawning cover types. Diverse hedgerows planted with evergreens, oaks, shrubs and fruit trees afford an abundance of cover and mast production.  Lastly, a constructed shallow water area has been established to provide habitat for waterfowl and a host of aquatic and amphibian species.

The forest land has been inventoried by a professional forest consultant and plans were developed to schedule a timber harvest, tree planting, and timber stand improvements which included the removal of exotic invasive species, and reduced completion around future crop trees. Plans have been made to establish prescribed burn units within the forested areas for the purpose of increasing the production of undergrowth, which in turn provides enhanced cover and food sources within the woodland.

With the long list of practices being said now comes the chore of managing the established resources and successful management does not come without a fair share of hard work. Each year begins a new cycle of planning management activities including mowing, disking, weed control, fertilization, annual food plot establishments, prescribed burns, refreshing mineral sites, and inventorying wildlife usage and abundance.

Such an intensively managed wildlife farm is not so often found and the passion and dedication that Mr. Metzger has poured into the property is something to be proud of. For his extraordinary efforts and dedication Mr. Erik Metzger has proudly been named the winner of the 2013 Cheatham County SCD Wildlife Conservation Award.

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2013 Conservation Farmer of the Year

The Cheatham County Soil Conservation District named Cason Hayes of Joelton as its 2013 Conservation Farmer of the Year.

Hayes can attest to the fact that the road traveled by beginning agriculture producers is often long, rough and full of many unforeseen obstacles. Yet the enjoyment and satisfaction of working hard and accomplishing a goal while improving the resources of one’s property makes the effort worthwhile.

New to production agriculture, Hayes got his start as a part-time farmer some two years ago when circumstances led to the ownership of his existing Cheatham County farm.

Historically the property had been managed for livestock and tobacco production; some of the production fields had been abandoned and were overgrown with saplings. Immediately, Hayes made strides and employed much effort into the improvement of his property.

He also began to acquire the knowledge needed to manage his resources and to meet his goals of producing qualify beef on productive farmland. He participated with UT Extension to become Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified, and a Master Beef Producer.

In 2012, he came in contact with the Cheatham County Soil Conservation District and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Open to ideas and optimistic about establishing a sustainable cattle operation, Hayes was ready to partner with conservation and extension services to develop and implement a working farm plan.

The challenges identified included very poor livestock forage, water scarcity, and a lack of infrastructure to manage livestock grazing and handling. Through consultation and observation of other local working farms and assistance form conservation agencies, including SCD, NRCS, UT Extension and TDA.

Hayes established his plan and has implemented a large portion of it. He now has a four paddock grazing system with automatic frost proof watering points supplied by a livestock water well.

He has installed some 10,000 feet of fence, including his cross fence. Livestock have been excluded from sensitive natural areas including forestland, a stream and pond. Quality pastures have been difficult to re-establish but through pasture renovation, pest management, and proper grazing methods production levels are rising and should only increase.

By rotating his livestock to manage for taller forage heights and higher forage production he is improving soil structure, organic matter levels, nutrient cycling and water holding capacity. Hayes has further subdivide his 35 acres of pasture as to improve his existing level of forage production and grazing efficiency. By doing so, he will reduce supplemental feeding and increase is farms livestock stocking rate.

Both part- and full-time agriculture producers will likely agree that the profits of production do not always pay up each year. Faced against the mercy of Mother Nature and economic markets the agriculture world can be a tough place to survive at times.

Aware of this fact, Hayes will declare he is in this business not just for profits but for the personal satisfaction and passion of managing his property and producing a quality product. Profits are just a component of his long-term goal of enjoying the proper management of his farm and natural resources.

For reasons including the drastic strides taken to develop a working knowledge of livestock and sustainable agriculture production, to his proactive effort to maximize the resource condition of his property the Cheatham County SCD is proud to have selected Hayes as the 2013 Conservation Farmer of the Year.

On June 24th, Cason Hayes, Cheatham County Soil Conservation District’s 2013 Conservation Farmer of the Year was presented with the Area VI Category I Award from Farm Credit Services.  Hayes received a check and plaque for the drastic strides he’s taken to develop his knowledge of livestock and sustainable agriculture production on his property in Area VI (Cheatham County and surrounding counties). This award was presented at the Tennessee Association of Conservation District Annual Summer Meeting held at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville.

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2014 TN Rural Life Days at Ellington Ag Center

2014 TN Rural Life Days at Ellington Ag Center

Amy Clifton, Dickson SCD, Carol Edwards, Davidson SCD, Janice Weiss, Cheatham SCD, Jessy Anderson, Robertson SCD, & Shantel King, NRCS assisted the TN AG Museum with Rural life days at Ellington. The two day event interprets life in the 19th century in rural TN. Living history demonstrations focused on many types of agricultural and household activities common on plantations and farms. It was created to allow students to learn about agriculture and enhance the link between urban and rural. The students visit exhibits, tour museum and hear presentations on agriculture. Hands on activities  were making butter, live farm animals-goats -cows-chickens-rabbits-lamas-horses-mules-turkeys, a cotton and vegetable garden demonstration,  making wood shingles, sheep shearing, pottery, candle making, soap making, spinning, quilting, basket making, farm machinery  and agriculturally related activities. More than 1850 middle TN school children viewed the interactive presentations to get a close up educational experience and better understanding about TN agriculture.

Janice Weiss Cheatham Co SCD Amy Clifton, Dickson (9) Amy Clifton, Dickson (2) Carol Edwards, Davidon Co

2014 Environment Days at Cheatham Dam

Local Conservation District partners with 2014 Cheatham Dam Environmental Day

There’s a lot more to education than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Environmental education is a topic too seldom presented to most young people today. The annual Cheatham Dam Environmental Day is a wonderful opportunity to educate local youth on a wide range of environmental topics.  Representatives from the Cheatham, Dickson, and Robertson County Soil Conservation Districts gladly partnered with other groups to host the event. The Soil Conservation District presented a hands-on learning opportunity utilizing a soil erosion display, wildlife pelts, skulls, tracks, and an aquarium full of living organisms. These visual aids were used to support the primary lesson of conserving our natural resources including soil, water, plants, and animals.

Discussion topics specifically included the importance of plants and living covers to stabilize soil and prevent erosion. Recycling opportunities were presented for materials used on a daily basis such as plastic, metal, paper, and oil. The wildlife and aquarium display included brief reviews of the biology, physiology, and habitual characteristics associated with the identified wildlife.

Cheatham County Soil Conservation and partner groups are pleased to provide education opportunities to the public. For more information about this annual event and other conservation education opportunities please contact the Cheatham County Soil Conservation District.

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