The National Organization of Professional Black Natural Resources Conservation Service Employees recently honored three farm families at their annual outreach and agricultural education exposition.
The Lloyd Wright Small Farmer Award is named after the organization’s founder. The award is given to producers who share a passion for improving awareness and development in the field of agriculture. The organization selected Kentucky rancher William E. Boulden, Jr. for first place, Texas grape growers Alphonse and Martha Dotson for second, and Mississippi ranchers Percy and Emma Brown for third.
“Our organization recognized the three farming operations to showcase not only their excellent stewardship of the land but also their partnership with NRCS and their conservation activities in the communities,” said Drenda Williams, the organization’s past president.
Boulden’s career in agriculture began during his youth. He assisted his grandfather and neighboring farmers with their cattle herds and was active in the local 4-H chapter. Today, Boulden runs a commercial beef cattle operation.
Working with NRCS, Boulden has implemented a rotational grazing system and expanded his livestock watering facilities. These improvements help him provide good food for his cattle, prevent soil erosion and conserve water. He was recently named the 2013 Kentucky Prescribed Grazing Hero from the Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts.
The Dotsons were recognized for their extensive conservation efforts and soil improvement techniques used on their Voca, Texas vineyard. Their story is not typical, but that could be what makes their grapes a little sweeter and their wine the winner of awards.
After retiring from the Oakland Raiders and spending 15 years in Acapulco, Mexico, Dotson purchased his ideal grape growing property in Voca. Dotson worked with NRCS staff to create topographic maps that showed the land’s contour, field elevations and soil types.
Using technical and financial assistance from NRCS, the Dotsons removed mesquite and treated prickly pear cactus on rangeland near their vineyard. These practices have helped them conserve water and improve their property’s soil health.
The Browns are living their retirement dream of raising commercial cattle on their Port Gibson, Miss. farm. The beginning farmers are passionate about conservation practices that benefit their land and livestock.
To achieve their goals, the Browns have worked with NRCS staff to install cross-fencing, one key to implementing a rotational grazing system that can help reduce the pressures caused by overgrazing. They also have installed the farm’s first-ever livestock water troughs. The Browns are truly enjoying their retirement days working on the farm.
The 2013 award winners are leading by example and putting conservation at the forefront of their management decisions.