For over a year, Mississippi retirees Percy and Emma Brown traveled 50 miles roundtrip three times a week from their home in Vicksburg, Miss. to their farm in Port Gibson in order to water their cattle. It was a time consuming process that involved filling up eight barrels with many gallons of water for the growing cattle herd.
That all changed when the Browns, who were new to farming, heard about USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency that helps private landowners implement conservation. They visited the Port Gibson field office and learned that they could receive funding from NRCS for livestock water troughs through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.
The Browns were able to install the farm’s first-ever water troughs with StrikeForce funds. The farm now has two water troughs located in separate pastures. That means that the Browns’ days of hauling water are over, and they can now spend that time on other farm projects.
The national StrikeForce initiative addresses high-priority funding and technical assistance needs in rural communities in 16 states, including Mississippi, with a special emphasis on historically underserved producers and communities in designated counties with persistent poverty. The initiative provides an opportunity for NRCS to work with underserved landowners to determine how to best leverage available financial assistance. Beginning farmers like the Browns are considered historically underserved.
“We just really wanted to get started and we didn’t really know how,” Percy says.
StrikeForce also helped the Browns install conservation practices such as cross fencing, one key to implementing a rotational grazing system which can help reduce the pressures caused by overgrazing. Negative effects of overgrazing include soil compaction, decreased soil organic matter and reduced forage availability for the livestock.
The Browns now have peace of mind knowing their 15 head of cattle will always have drinking water. The water troughs have also freed up more time for the Browns to enjoy their retirement days working on the farm.