Young Farming Brothers Improving their Soil and Profits using Latest Technology and Cover Crops
The Harris Brothers from Chester County are our 21st in the series of Profiles of Soil Health Heroes. Rusty and Jeff Harris are twins and farming partners. They are fifth generation farmers. Their farm headquarters are located at Wayne Harris Road, named after their grandfather. They live in Henderson, Tennessee. Rusty is Chairman of the Chester County Soil Conservation District Board. I had the privilege to visit them on June 2, 2016 along with Brad Denton, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist for Madison and Chester Counties. I also had the privilage to work with Levi Harris, Jeff's son. On earlier visit in March of 2016, I met Hannah, Rusty's daughter. The future farming generation is in good hands with children like Hanna and Levi getting this great exposure of farming to improve soil health.
Rusty and Jeff grew up farming with their dad. Rusty began farming approximately eleven years ago. He was working off farm, when their dad became deathly ill. After their dad died, Rusty began farming full time. He began acquiring bottom land fields with slopes no greater than 4 percent, with the exception of one farm that have some significant slopes. All soils are loess or alluvial soils. The fields are very productive but highly erosive. On the other hand, Jeff started farming full time about four years ago. Out of necessity due to prime farm lands already leased out, he acquired steeper ground, mostly coming out of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Many farmers want to till up CRP lands. Jeff wanted to preserve the soil organic matter that built up during CRP. Landowners saw this advantage of keeping their fields productive and leased their lands to Jeff. Rusty and Jeff have shown a remarkable stewardship. Landowners have been content to keep them in leases. In both cases, the brothers acquired farms that have been managed well for conservation. These soils respond well to their continued soil health improving management.
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From Former Mined Land to Productive Soils
On April 26, 2016, I visited Keith Farms with Jeff Bowie, District Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Maury County, Tennessee. Keith farm is located in Pottsville, Tennessee in Maury County. Keith Farms consist of Father, Ritchie and his son, Chad. The Keiths are our nineteenth of Profiles of Soil Health Heroes.
A portion of the farm is formerly mined phosphate land. The location of the farm is on the Duck River. The farm was cleared of trees and shaped and disked to smooth a few years ago. This is the third year in production. The rest of the farming operation has been no-tilled for seven years. Recent rotation on the mined field has been one year of soybeans and this is the third year of corn. Approximately 335 acres are in center pivot irrigation. Just to make a point how effective Keith Farms are in keeping the soil covered, I have a picture below in the photo gallery of conventional tillage from a farm less than two miles from their farm.
Their crop rotation for the entire operation is corn, wheat or cereal rye, and soybeans. They crop approximately 3,600 acres. Four hundred of those acres are in cereal rye for grain, and 1,000 acres are in wheat for grain.
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