By Brad Bowman
The annual Henry County Conservation District’s Board of Directors Awards night honored the preservation of Henry County’s farmland, resources and rural lore.
According to Allan Bryant, chairman of the Henry County Conservation District, Henry County has 22 agriculture districts with over 20,000 acres of farmland kept as agricultural land. The conservation district, a division of the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Natural Resources Conservation Service aid Henry County farmers in implementing soil and water conservation programs on their land.
The conservation programs executed through cost share programs have resulted in 22 contracts with local landowners totaling $322,165 this year. Cost share programs included environment quality incentive programs, which resulted in 41 applications and 19 contracts and conservation stewardship programs with six applications resulting in three contracts.
The Master Conservationist Award, this year given to Henry County farmer Chester Stivers, embodies the mission the conservation district and Natural Resources Conservation Service strive for — a collaborative preservation program for the farmer and their land.
The district named Chester and Sandra Stivers the 2013 Master Conservationists for the work implemented on their farm. Stivers has a 300-acre family owned farm on KY 202. Working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Henry County Conservation District, Chester Stivers has developed a five-year plan to reduce soil loss on his farm.
Stivers seeded 22 acres of alfalfa and orchard grass on his farm and removed fields from tobacco production, added three watering facilities and improved the farm’s grazing and manure distribution.
According to David Norfleet, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Stivers put 93 acres into prescribed grazing, a practice controlling the frequency of grazing and its impact on soil and vegetation, along with rotational grazing will reduce soil loss by 58 tons yearly.
“(Stivers) took ground out of tobacco production and placed it into alfalfa production. I’ve ran some numbers on this and taking it out tobacco into alfalfa production is pretty substantial,” Norflett said. “It reduced (soil loss) by about four tons an acre per year because you are getting away from conventional tillage. The lifespan on that over five years is 440 tons saved off of that one piece of ground by the terms of the agreement between us and the producer. That’s a lot of dirt.”
Watershed protection is another major concern Stivers addressed by installing 476 feet of an exclusion fence and 779 feet of an interior fence. By the end of the five years, the Stivers farm will have conserved 500 tons of soil from going into the Kentucky Water Shed.
Preservation of resource and place was not lost on the guest speaker Georgia Green Stamper.
Stamper grew up on a tobacco farm in Owen County and affectionately read anecdotes about rural life from her latest book, Butter in the Morning: Pieces of a Kentucky Life.
“This is like coming home for me. I grew up in Owen County and my husband grew up with one foot actually in Henry County and one in Owen County… he grew up on the river in Gratz,” Stamper said. “I grew up on a farm connected to my family since the early 19th century and I suspect I am not unique in this crowd. When you grow in a place, the essence of who they are, the culture, the philosophy all these things just become a part of you. This sense of place is there. It is who we are.”
Stamper started as a family genealogist, wrote down her family stories and carved out her niche as a Kentucky writer with books full of those stories.
“I’ve been going around the state on behalf of (the Kentucky Humanities Council) talking to audiences like you telling my stories, about my time, my place and my people,” Stamper said. “But they’re not as important as the process of me helping you recover and remember your own stories. My mission is to convince you that your stories are very important and they should be preserved. You need to be preserving your local and family stories.”
Since 2004, Stamper has writen a column, “Georgia: On My Mind,” for The Owenton News-Herald. Stamper has been a regular commentator for NPR member station WUKY affiliated with the University of Kentucky and has books available on amazon.com or her website georgiagreenstamper.com