West Tennessee Farmer Making a Difference in Soil Properties
Alex Johnson of Henderson County, Tennessee is our 43rd Profiles of Soil Health Heroes. On May 3, 2018, I had the privilege of spending some time visiting with Alex, his father, Mr. Johnson, and Meredith Crosby, NRCS District Conservationist, Henderson and Decatur Counties. Alex is a retired physician who also farmed his final 10 years of his medical career, which was quite challenging. He now farms full-time with his father. Alex became interested in changing farming practices to improve soil health by reading about nutrient management and soil health changes. Once he tried it; he was hooked and has been consistently growing covers for the last five years.
The Johnson farm is located in eastern Henderson county near Lexington, Tennessee. They farm upland loess fields (windblown silt) and creek and river bottoms. When we first went to the field for the interview for this article, Alex remarked that recent flooding on the Beech river showed muddy water coming off a nearby neighbor who uses tillage. In contrast, the water running off Alex's farm was clear. Many of the covers that we walked in were head high (6 feet) and some that were chest high (4.5 half feet). Alex told us that the cover crops are suppressing weeds, and he has reduced one herbicide spraying per year. He also uses IPM (Integrated Pest Management). He has reduced annual foliar fungicides. If scouting shows the need, he will apply them. He said that he is saving conservatively $34.00 per acre on herbicide and fungicide savings.
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Dairy Farmer Changing Sloping Land Soil Health with No-till and Cover Crops
Life many times will cycle. This is the case on this particular profile. I began my career in August of 1977 with USDA, Soil Conservation Service in Bradley County. One of the farms that I worked on in 1977 was John Moore. John was a Soil Conservation District Board Member in 1977 and had been on the board since 1968. John is our 41st Profiles of Soil Health Heroes. John is an active Bradley County Soil Conservation District (SCD) Board Member and currently serving as Chairman of the Board. John also has served as Tennessee Association Conservation Districts' (TACD) East Tennessee Divisional Vice President. It was my pleasure to visit John's farm on February 6, 2018 along with Chase Hicks, NRCS District Conservationist, Cleveland, Tennessee.
I ask John to share his family's history of farming. John shared that he is a 6th generation farmer on the current farm. The current farm has been in the family since 1850. John's great, great, great grandfather is buried on the farm as well as two of his two sons. The farm is at Rattle Snake Springs in Bradley County. This is also the beginning of the Trail of Tears. Forty-one acres of the Moore Farm is recognized as a Historic Site. John also said there is speculation of burial grounds of Native Americans on the farm, but are not marked.
I asked John to share how he started farming. John shared that his father was sick, and he began milking or assisting milking as a pre-teenager. His father died when John was fifteen. He took over the farm along with one farm hand. He said that mornings started early at 5:00 am. John would milk and go to school. A year later he would take cattle to sale barn after school and then go home and milk. Adulthood was thrust on him as a teenager.
John and his son currently milks 120 Holstein cows. He has a 65 cow-calf operation. Besides producing corn-silage behind cover crops, he plants wheat in orchard grass for hay. He also plants some wheat-Marshall rye grass for pasture. His current cropland is broken down as follows: 90 acres in corn silage, 215 acres of total acres in corn, and 55 acres in soybeans.
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