From 300 Acres to 4,000 Acres, Cover Crops and No-till Change Soil Health in Tipton County, Tennessee
I visited the Hopkins' Farm on July 13, 2017 along with George Henshaw, NRCS District Conservationist for Lauderdale County, Tennessee and Acting District Conservationist for Tipton County. "Gentleman" would be the word to describe Glenn Hopkins. He and his family are truly hospitable and gracious. I feel bless to visit this family and to write about their accomplishments. Glenn Hopkins is our 35th Profiles of Soil Health Heroes. Glenn's partner and wife is Marcie. Their oldest son is Nathan, 18 years old. Nathan is active working on the farm. He is also active in tractor pulling. Glenn and Marcie also have twin sons who are 13 years old, Mike and Mitch. They assist on the farm. Glenn's parents, Troy and Gail Hopkins also own interest in the farming operation.
Glenn Hopkins is a third-generation farmer from Tipton County, Tennessee. Glenn's grandfather was a cotton ginner, and farmed cattle, cotton, and chickens. He would work the cotton gin in the fall, and the family would farm the cotton. His grandparents began farming as share croppers. Glenn's grandfather died when he was three years old. Glenn shared that he began driving a tractor at age 7. Growing up working on the farm was expected. It also became his hobby along with baseball until he was 10. He farmed until college age. The 1980s were tough for farmers. There were droughts and prices were not that good. Glenn went off to college, but after seeing college was not for him, he went into law enforcement at age 19. He was a deputy sheriff for Tipton County. During this time, Glenn did earn an Associate's degree in law enforcement and was planning to finish a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice at Memphis State University. His father had an injury and required surgery in the fall of 1992. Glenn did not go to school that fall. He stayed on the farm and harvested the crops. He married Marcie in 1994 and began contemplating his occupation for the future. He decided that farming was more conducive for his family than law enforcement. Troy offered him a job farming with him, and Glenn became a full-time farmer in 1995.
Read more: Glenn Hopkins
Seeing the Positive Effects from Cover Crops in Dyer, County
Jesse and Danny Castleman farm in Dyer County and reside in Newbern, Tennessee. They farm predominantly hill-lands in the Newbern area. Their soils are mostly Grenada and Loring Silt Loam. Since these soils have fragipans, they tend to be wet when rainfall is plentiful and drought prone when dry. Jesse took over the farming operation from his dad, approximately two years ago. Jesse is our 33rd Profile of Soil Health Heroes. I visited the farming operation on June 7, 2017 along with Adam Willis, NRCS Soil Conservationist, Dyersburg, Josh Richardson, District Conservationist, NRCS for Obion and Lake Counties, Ryan Blackwood, NRCS Soil Conservationist, Dyersburg, Danny Castleman, Josh Phillips, NRCS District Conservationist, Dyersburg, Jesse Castleman, and Landowner, R.C. Owens.
Jesse produces grain crops with a corn and soybean rotation. He and his father began cover crops in 2014, predominantly for erosion control. Most of their fields are 2-5% slopes. The soils are from loess (wind-blown silt). They are highly erosive when left bare and tilled. Jesse and Danny learned a few years ago that no-till was the method to farm due to erosion potential on their soils. As earlier noted, the soils are drought prone when conditions are dry, so additions of SOM are essential for these soils to remain productive. Growing cover crops have added much more active soil organic matter or carbon to their soils. Historically, we have lost over 50% of our soil organic matter (SOM) or carbon. Carbon (C) makes up approximately 58% of SOM; and therefore, the terms will be used interchangeable. Keeping a plant growing is the best way to build or increase SOM. Green plants produce sugars or carbon as a result of photosynthesis. Farmers miss opportunities when they only grow one crop per year for 110 days or less. However, cover crops not only add diversity to a corn and soybean rotation, but also provide more efficiency of intercepting energy flow from the sun. Jesse is doing this by planting multi species cover crops annually. Also, multi species cover crops mimic nature with many species growing during the season instead of just a monoculture crop. The sheer amount of biomass grown in the cash crops and cover crops add significant carbon to the system which in turns feeds the soil biology in terms of quantity and quality due to the diversity. The soil biology provides better soil aggregation and nutrient cycling; thus, the soil health improves.
Read more: Jesse Castleman