Farmer Says Farmers Cannot Afford not to Build Their Soil Health
I am Mike Hubbs, Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts Soil Health Specialist. I have been visiting and talking to many farmers all across Tennessee that are practicing conservation practices that improve soil health. I call the series, Profiles of Soil Health Heroes. Bill Legg is our 28th of the Profiles of Soil Health Heroes. He is from near Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. I had the privilege to visit Bill on January 11, 2017 along with Mike Tatum, District Conservationist, NRCS, Lawrenceburg, and Tucker Newton, Lawrence County Soil Conservation District Office Director. January 11 was a pleasant day for January. It had rained earlier and was cloudy but a mild 66 degrees. Bill's soils range from 4-6% sloping silt loam soils to bottom land soils with slopes 0-2%.
Bill had grown up farming and had grown grain crops for many years and in his words, "just broke even." He changed his operation to grazing operation and some forestry. He did not grow annual crops for 15 years. He became interested in rotational grazing in 1996. He began to see the importance of Bio-Diversity. In 2009, he began to read more on the soil food web and soil biology. He also attended a session on the food web. This was part of a Missouri Grazing Field Day that featured soil health changes.
In 2011, he began farming crops again. He is farming on the halves with another farmer, who does the planting and harvesting for him. Bill supplies the land and seed. Bill began using cover crops in the fall of 2011. He wanted to incorporate his livestock enterprise with his crop fields. He now farms 140 acres for grain crops. Bill grows corn and soybeans in rotation and actively grazes his cover crops with his livestock. Bill drills soybeans and cover crops. He plants his corn in 30" rows. He said that his dad talked about growing cover crops back when his dad plowed with mules. They would plant cereal rye and vetch. As Bill researched soil health improving practices, he remembered his father's history with cover crops.
Read more: Bill Legg
Growing Cover Crops to Manage Nutrients and to Improve Soil Health Near the Mississippi River
My name is Mike Hubbs. I am the Soil Health Specialist with Tennessee Association of Conservation Districts (TACD). I have authored the series of Profiles of Soil Health Heroes. I introduce myself in this article because I live in north Knox County in a community called Halls, sometimes called Halls Crossroads. In its long history, Halls Crossroads, or as locals call it Halls, has attempted to obtain its own postal zip code. For whatever reason, it has not happened. Years ago, they tried and the post office was going to be named Halls Dale in order not to be confused with Halls, Tennessee. That fell through, and Halls still has a Knoxville zip code.
I give you this background because our next Profiles of Heroes, number 26 is Charlie Roberts from Halls, Tennessee in Lauderdale County. Halls Crossroadsin Knox County is approximately 400 miles east of Halls, Tennessee in Lauderdale County. I say all of this because it has been a common miscommunication. Recently a delivery for Halls in Knox County comes to Halls in West Tennessee. The driver of the truck was absolutely perturbed when he realized that he had to drive an additional 400 miles east because of miscommunication from his home office. So on November 3, 2016, I made my way from Halls in North Knox County to just 14 miles east of the Mississippi River in Halls, Tennessee. I met Charlie Roberts and George Henshaw, NRCS District Conservationist for Lauderdale County at Charlie's mother's place of business, Charlene's Collectibles and lunch at " Just Divine Tea Room." I was surprised by the bustle of activity at Charlene's Collectibles with several women all over the region shopping and eating. I am not accustomed to eating at too many "Tea Rooms;" however, I must say the food was great and plentiful for a man's appetite. I can see why the crowd was there.
I have attended some Soil Health Round Table Discussions with Charlie Roberts over the last two years in Madison County on two occassions. I also traveled with him with the Tennessee's tour of Dave Brandt's in Ohio in August of 2015. I have also seen him at some field days where I presented. I knew about his enthusiasm to learn more about soil health. I also had discussed with him some of his farming experiences. Thus, I am now writing about his sucesses in improving his soil.
With drought and extreme warm weather this fall, I noted the temperature was 82 degrees on November 3, 2016 at Charlie's farm. They have not received any rain in approximately six weeks. Charlie said the last rain was 0.25 to 0.5 inch. Charlie said that he was a fourth-generation farmer. I also met his Dad, Ronnie during lunch. He said that their ancestors made their way from North Carolina to the Cumberland river and then westward to Carroll County. The Roberts made their way from Carroll County in 1920 in seven wagons and traveled for seven days to the Barr Community in Lauderdale County. Their reason for picking up and relocating was the inexpensive land prices and higher fertility of the soils adjacent to the Mississippi River. Their original track of land was the Barr Farm on the Mississippi River. Ronnie said that Charlie runs the farming operation now. Ronnie helps out from time to time with the farming operation and also at Charlene's Collectibles. Charlie said their original farm was a historical cotton farm. Recently the farm has changed to a corn, soybean, triticale and cereal rye and oats for grain. They only produced corn, soybeans and oats in 2015 and 2016. The last cotton produced on the farm was 2013. Charlie says they will continue to grow corn, soybeans, oats, triticale and rye in the future. The farming operation is approximately 1,300 acres.
Read more: Charlie Roberts