GOOD HOPE, Ga. — Kenneth Still was just 14 years old the first time he learned about the importance of conservation on farmland.
Thanks to the Walton County Soil and Water Conservation District, the young Kenneth Still attended a conservation seminar at Georgia Southern University.
He continued learning of farming techniques and responsibility to the land through organizations like FFA (of which he was president) and 4-H. He came full circle this year by being honored as 2020 Conservationist of the Year by the Walton County SWCD.
As he grew up on the family farm, Still saw the importance of keeping erosion low and water quality high. His dad initially grew cotton then eventually raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Once his parents retired, Still bought out the family farm from his siblings and worked on the farm while also working full-time at General Motors.
In 1994, he and his wife, Susan, purchased an additional 112 acres which included a farmhouse, and moved on the land to farm full time. In addition to he and his wife, Mr. Still’s entire family eventually moved on the farm.
Each of his four children — John Jr., Mark, Sandy and Marie — have a home on the property. There are 12 grandchildren who live on the farm as well.
Having three generations on the farm is a source of pride for Mr. Still and when needed, the entire family pitches in on the farm to help. With a farm 200 acres in size on which he raises beef cattle and harvests hay, it’s nice to have that many hands available.
In running an operation of up to 140 head of Angus and Charolais, it was important to Still to incorporate conservation-minded practices on his farm. With the help of Jose Pagan, district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Monroe, Still was able to develop a conservation plan focusing on reducing land erosion and excluding his stream and pond from animal traffic. Cross-fencing was installed to rotate the cattle to different paddocks to keep pasture grass at healthy heights.
When creating separate paddocks, it’s important to provide water supplies to the animals. Heavy-use foundations were created in each paddock in the center of which were placed watering troughs. The exclusion fencing has blocked the cattle from crossing the streams and having access to the pond.
In addition, Still focused on nutrient management by sending soil samples to the University of Georgia for analysis and using that feedback to properly fertilize the soils. For healthy pasture for his cattle he added herbaceous weed control to remove noxious and/or invasive species and conducted pasture plantings to improve the quality of nutrition.
To reduce soil erosion due to surface runoff and the possibility of gullies, Still installed grassed waterways near high traffic areas and diversion structures on slopes.
When asked about how he felt receiving the Conservationist of the Year award from the Walton County Soil and Water Conservation District, Still just shrugged with a modest grin. He said he just wished more farmers would participate in these programs. He said it just makes sense to keep the natural waterways clean and un-muddied.
Growing up, Still claims he had two loves: cars and farming. After working for GM for 35 years, he got to live for his car passion.
Now that he’s retired, he gets to spend the rest of his life nurturing the other.